Town of Ulster gets rid of old oil tank

A disused oil storage tank at Ulster Town Hall was removed last week 15 years after the town switched to natural gas. The tank’s removal and some of the questions it left behind was just one of the topics of conversation at last week’s Town Board workshop meeting.

The 2,000-gallon fiberglass spherical tank was excavated and removed by the town’s Highway Department, a process made more difficult because it hasn’t actually been used since April 1996. That’s when the town converted to natural gas energy, opting then to fill in the now obsolete tank with dirt and stone to prevent its collapse. The tank, according to Supervisor Jim Quigley, was originally installed sometime in the late 1980s.

“Because it was a 2,000-gallon tank with dirt in it, we couldn’t just lift the tank up out of the ground,” Quigley said. “We had to break the tank up and then excavate the dirt out of the tank’s shell.”


According to Quigley, the soil was separated into two piles: The first pile contained soil that had been inside the tank, while the second was soil that surrounded the tank during its more than 20 years of burial.

“We had them both tested with a sniffer device,” Quigley said. “It was the first go-around of tests, and that pretty much verified preliminarily that the soil outside the tank cavity was not polluted, and that the soil inside the tank cavity had in fact absorbed the residual oil that was in the tank when they closed it.”

How the remaining soil will be disposed of will be determined following a series of laboratory tests of samples obtained by a town consultant who put samples in clear jars, filled out chain-of-custody paperwork, sealed the jars in a shipping crate and sent them off to be studied. The soil disposal is determined under state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.

It was the DEC who set the wheels in motion, though perhaps a bit on the late side.

“What was the triggering event here is that the town failed to file the proper paperwork with the DEC (in the ’90s), putting them on notice that the tank was no longer in use,” Quigley said. “When they put the tank in the ground, the town had to fill out an application with the DEC that went into a computer database. Those licenses are good for five years.”

It took much longer before the DEC came calling.

“In June of this year, an individual came into my office with a computer printout in his hand and said, ‘We have this tank. Your license for in-ground storage expired in 1999, you didn’t renew. What happened?’” Quigley said. “And I told them we converted to gas in 1996 and pointed outside my window and said, ‘I guess that’s what that is.’ And that’s where we stand.”

Wanted: New master plan panel member

Also discussed at last week’s meeting was the need to replace Karen Markisenis on the Town of Ulster Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee; according to Quigley, Markisenis is leaving because she moved out of the town into the City of Kingston.

The criteria for potential committee members are fairly short, though it’s punctuated by a need for dedication and a sense of community.

“First of all, you have to have an interest in the community,” Quigley said. “We’re looking for someone who is going to take and be dedicated to doing the research and trying to understand the impact that this work is going to have on the community.”

Town board member and chairman of the now-defunct Comprehensive Plan Committee John Morrow elaborated on the implementation committee’s formation.

“Five or six years ago, we had a Comprehensive Plan Committee,” he said. “They shaped the plan that was adopted by the town. After that committee formed the plan, the board created the Ulster Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee.”

Quigley said implementing the plan, which was adopted by the town on July 2, 2007, doesn’t have a specific timetable. The committee will help push the plan in that direction.

“What this committee does is it takes the plan that the community developed and adopted and it translates it into working language in the town code so that this can be a living document,” Quigley said. “Right now it’s a conceptual plan sitting in a book on a shelf. And what we need to do is interpret the ideas and the goals and visions that are in that document into practical language that would help accomplish the tasks and the processes that were set forth in the plan and bring them into reality.”

The committee is chaired by former councilman David Brink, who was a member of the town board when the Comprehensive Plan was adopted. Also on the committee are Vice-Chairman Michael Berardi, Mary Secreto, Frank Almquist, Eugene Rios and Nelson White.