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Climate smart? Yes… but what’s in the tank?


Ancram has plan for unwelcome garage fluids

ANCRAM—There once was a popular ad jingle, “… and away go troubles down the drain.”

But stuff going down the drain is precisely what has caused some troubles at the Ancram Highway Garage.

At the February 18 Town Board meeting, the board voted to become a Climate Smart Community, an environmentally responsible thing to do. At the same meeting the board learned that a floor drain inside the highway garage funnels substances into an underground containment tank that may be leaking.

Also the tank was supposed to have been pumped out periodically, but was not. Somehow maintenance of the tank fell through the cracks—not good news, environmentally.

Highway Superintendent James Miller, who stepped into his new job January 1, told The Columbia Paper this week that he became aware of the situation after receiving an email inquiring about when the containment tank was last pumped out.

A check of Highway Department records led him to conclude that the tank had never been emptied.

The floor drain was part of the new, voter-approved, $500,000 highway garage, built in 2010, with its grand opening held in January 2011. The new garage was a long time coming for the town crew, who used to have to work on equipment in a crumbling, unheated, dirt-floored facility year-round.

Since department trucks are now parked inside the concrete-floored facility, they are also hosed off inside and any road salt, dirt, vehicle fluids and other grime that may be on the trucks goes down the drain.

Mr. Miller told the board when he opened the drain he saw that the 1,000 gallon tank was about “three-quarters full of stuff.” He said in the follow-up phone call, it appeared to be mostly water with a film of oil on top.

The highway boss sealed off the drain and arranged for a company that deals with such things to come and remove the contents of the tank March 8 at a cost of about $2,500. Once that tank is empty it will be checked for leaks and soils tests will be conducted to determine if whatever went into the tank for the last five years oozed out anywhere.

The tank is situated behind the garage between the building and the swampy pond that runs parallel to Route 82.

Mr. Miller said he believed the town had opted to set up the system with a tank that had to be pumped as means to “shave costs” when the building was built.

If any contamination is detected it will be remedied, and the town will enlist the services of an engineer to get an oil/water separator system installed.

Asked what he knew about the drain in a phone call this week, retired former highway Superintendent James MacArthur said he was aware that the drain led to a tank, but that he never opened the drain.

In other business the board:

*Heard from Ancram Conservation Advisory Council member Jane Meigs and state Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Coordinator Robyn Reynolds about the “flexible and voluntary” program, which helps municipalities save money, reduce energy use and adapt to extreme climate events. Becoming a CSC involves adopting a 10-point pledge, joining a network of like-minded communities and receiving advance notice of funding opportunities designed to help the town meet its climate smart goals. Though the board had just received an abundance of CSC information it opted not to wait to digest it, but to commit to the CSC pledge. The vote was unanimous

*Heard a presentation by Command Sergeant Major (retired) Gary Flaherty, who is Columbia County’s Veterans Affairs director, about the problems faced by veterans returning from war and services available to them

*Town Assessor Ken Leggett announced that he and county valuation specialists are in the final stage of completing a townwide property revaluation designed to bring the town’s equalization rate as close to 100% as possible. Mr. Leggett said he ran all the data from property sales in the town over the last three years through a computer program and also sent out data collection sheets to all property owners to get the most accurate information. Property owners should receive their new property value notice in early to mid-March

*Heard from Councilman David Boice that lighting district residents have expressed concern to him over having to pay more taxes for street lights in Ancram than Ancramdale. The board agreed to look into the why the lighting district was formed in the first place and what’s involved in dissolving it.

The Town Board meets next March 17 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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