Officials cleaning up Marblehead oil mess


MARBLEHEAD — School officials are hoping the mess left behind by Tuesday’s heating oil spill during a standard delivery, that prompted the closure of Elbridge Gerry School, will be cleaned up by next week.   

“We closed the school for the rest of the week, and our hope is to open on Tuesday,” said Ken Lord, executive director of technology and operations for Marblehead Public Schools.

The K-1 school on Elm Street was closed this past Tuesday after 16 gallons of heating oil spilled when the truck’s hose popped off the fill spout during the delivery. The rogue hose sprayed heating oil onto the side of the building, the parking lot and onto a parked car, Lord said.

Lord said he got the call for the spill around 7:15 a.m., and school officials were able to inform parents they should drop their children off at the nearby Coffin School, where they have been situated all week.

Air quality test results are expected on Monday, which would determine if the school can be opened, Lord said. Students are off that day for Martin Luther King Jr. Day regardless.  

Lord said clean-up began on Tuesday, and although the classrooms were aired overnight, the oil smell was still heavy inside, prompting the continued closure.

“The oil itself and the smell could irritate people so that’s the main reason we had to bring everybody out (of) there,” Lord said.

Besides the smell, he said the students are also being kept away because of the potentially disruptive noise of the clean-up.

The clean-up is being paid for by the oil company’s insurance company, which has contracted NRC, National Response Corporation. The company also enlisted Wilcox and Barton, Inc., an environmental and consulting and civil engineering firm for the air quality testing, Lord said. Both report to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Marblehead Fire Chief Jason Gilliland said school officials did the right thing after the oil spill, notifying him and the police department. He then notified the town’s health and highway departments. He said the school “probably did the right thing,” in closing for the remainder of the week.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

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