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It should have been a fun February Friday morning at North Surry High as the day before the Lady Greyhounds basketball team beat Southwestern Randolph 59-49 in their second round playoff game to advance to the next round.

However, the staff members who were first on campus the next morning immediately sensed something was wrong. A fuel leak in the boiler room had sent hundreds of gallons of fuel oil down the drain. A drain that passes under the parking lot and empties to the banks above the football practice field near Stewarts Creek.

If the staff’s noses hadn’t worked, the Doggett water plant was also one of the first canaries to sound the alarm as they detected higher levels of fluorocarbons in the water than it did. should have been there.

In recounting the incident on Monday, Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr Travis Reeves said their aim had been to make it known as soon as it was clear there was no danger. Parents were scared when they learned that emergency crews were at the school, then heard of a chemical or fuel spill. He expressed empathy for the anxiety the situation may have caused parents.

That Thursday night in February it rained almost an inch, and it was that rain that made the problem worse. “If we hadn’t had this rain, I don’t think the oil would have reached Stewarts Creek,” he told county commissioners on Monday. He mentioned he was grateful the spill didn’t happen over the weekend when it may have gone unnoticed.

The day before the leak there had been a problem in North Surry where four boilers powered by a 20,000 gallon fuel tank were heating the school. A pipe connects the boiler system to a 100 gallon tank in the boiler room itself, and there is a drain in the floor for any spills.

Reeves described the system as being designed “to make sure that when the boilers shut down the fuel doesn’t go back into the big tank and to make sure we have constant pressure, otherwise we have air in the pipes and we will send people there all the time to relight the boiler.

“We had a pump malfunction the day before, so we added a temporary pump and a temporary hose, and the temporary hose got a hole overnight. We don’t know why a hole appeared in the hose overnight. but it did.

Ultimately, it is human nature to seek out the root cause of this spill. Something happened somewhere along the line: “Was it an inferior replacement part?” Substandard repair? Commissioner Van Tucker asked.

With a pressure rating of 225 pounds of pressure, Reeves was baffled as to how the hose could have failed because “there was really no pressure on the hose itself,” he said Monday. .

A sample of the tube in question was presented to county commissioners for visual inspection, with Tucker adding: ‘I notice it says made in China and reinforced. It wasn’t reinforced enough, Dr. Reeves. The insurance company sent a forensic investigator to assess the tube, pipe, and hose for such a defect that Tucker might have hinted.

The commissioner went further, asking Reeves if he thought there was any chance it wasn’t an accident, but rather an act of vandalism. Reeves replied in the negative, however Tucker seemed to have lingering questions about the situation and was keen to allow an investigation to continue.

Reeves said Thursday morning that investigators had questions about the “down pressure” on the six-inch replacement hose “which was right next to the truck. We keep a length of it on the truck, so it was new, and it has a life expectancy of 8 to 12 months.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the maximum insurance payout is $50,000, which would only pay part of the response and cleanup bill submitted by Ultimate Towing & Recovery of over $233,000. $.

Surry County submitted its own bill to the school system for $4,079 for its Haz Mat response to the fuel spill.

Dr. Reeves arrived at the board armed with a plan to reallocate funds already earmarked for completed projects that turned out to be under budget.

“It’s not your fault, not our fault, but we have to pay for it.” Tucker suggested the board approve Dr. Reeves’ reallocation of $34,000 to be immediately allocated to the exceptional cleaning total, “without allocating more money to this issue until we have time to that… the investigation follows its course”.

Commissioner Eddie Harris was clear: “This company needs to be paid.” The commissioners agreed to reallocate the money requested by Reeves, but then suspended any further disbursements from the council for up to 30 days until the insurance company had completed its work.

Harris then reminded the board of a similar fuel spill caused by a leak in the boiler room at Elkin High that spilled into Big Elkin Creek. Elkin has since converted to natural gas, ironically a process that will soon begin at North Surry High.

Frontier Natural Gas extended its service area, “We’ll connect to the line that Franklin is already on.” Reeves also said that Surry Central had made its transition to natural gas, with East Surry still not having its conversion to natural gas.

It’s too little too late for Reeves and the commissioners as they set a quarter-million dollar spend that no one saw coming. The net result for fuel cleanup, environmental impact and labor for Ultimate Recovery employees is $233,575.

The oil-contaminated dirt had to be transported to Asheboro to be cleaned up at a cost of $15,342. Using dump trucks to haul this filth for 388 hours cost $45,784. When you factor in backhoes, skid steer loaders and other equipment, that number doubles.

Hiring a geologist who will be on hand to report and sample during the process costs $7,500. Approximately $45,000 was spent on labor for the contracted cleaning crew.

Another big thing Reeves explained: “They call them pigs, but they’re round white objects that go across the top of the water on streams. We had several between high school and the water plant.

288 booms were used to float on the water at a cost of $256 apiece, making it the largest item in the cleanup at $73,728.