Town, MDE, Shore Health to Discuss Oil Spill Friday

The Chestertown Council and residents will learn Monday if and when a recovery and containment system that has protected the town water supply for decades from a massive heating oil spill at the hospital will be turned off.

A Zoom meeting between University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, the Town Council and Maryland Department of the Environment is scheduled for 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 20.

The containment system was deployed in the 1990’s to prevent the oil spill from traveling down gradient 1,100 feet towards the town’s drinking water plant. It is estimated that 80,000 gallons remains in the subsurface at the hospital. The original spill was estimated at 160,000 gallons.

Since University of Maryland took over the hospital a decade ago there has been push to shut down the containment system — over strong objections from the town’s utilities manager, Bob Sipes, because of risks posed to the drinking water.

The town will also learn whether a controversial new testing method to determine levels contamination will continue to be used.

Sipes has argued that the new testing method, the Silica Method, artificially lowers the test results and makes the groundwater appear cleaner than it is, which would justify turning off the containments system.

Trish McGee over at the Kent County News discusses the change in hospital consultants over the past year and a fine Shore Regional Health received “for alleged unauthorized and undisclosed shutdown of the groundwater pump-and-treat system” that occurred in April, she writes.

In an interview in June, Town Utilities Manager Bob Sipes, explains his concerns about the new testing method being used to measure contaminants in the ground water.

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