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Clark County faces $600,000 bill for diesel spill cleanup

Clark County is facing a bill of up to $600,000 for cleaning up a 200-gallon diesel spill at Spring Mountain Youth Camp after a sensor failed and fuel leaked out of a small hole where county staff had failed to reinstall a bolt.

Commissioners plan to vote Tuesday on the environmental services contract with environmental and engineering firm Broadbent and Associates that has an estimated cost of $350,000 to $600,000 for excavation and working with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to ensure compliance.

County officials said the cost could be higher, but that would need approval from the commission.

The county’s path to the six-figure bill started a year ago. In April 2014, county staff were doing maintenance work in the camp’s mechanical room on the system’s piping. At the time, they failed to reinstall a bolt on top of the 250-gallon tank, county records show. That oversight left a small hole in the tank.

The tank is refilled automatically by pipes connected to two 10,000-gallon storage tanks, with a sensor that controls the fuel level.

“In combination with failure to install a bolt, fuel leaked from the tank until it was discovered by staff,” County Manager Don Burnette wrote in a report.

It’s unclear what would have happened had the sensor failed with the bolt securely in place. But county officials acknowledge that the bolt shouldn’t have been left out of the tank.

“It’s a maintenance mistake,” Assistant County Manager Randy Tarr said.

Tarr noted that the county has a staff of 130 people who service equipment on several million square feet of property.

“I think we have a pretty good crew out there,” he said.

The contract also will cover cleanup efforts for a larger area with a larger contamination of an unknown source. Details about the scope of that older contamination weren’t immediately available, though officials plan to address it.

Spring Mountain Youth Camp, overseen by the county’s Department of Juvenile Justice Services, houses male offenders between 12 and 18 years old in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area outside Las Vegas.

The work will entail removing dirt from the site of the spill and contamination and either replacing it or cleaning it. The contractor will test soil samples and shore up the building structure to keep it stable during the work. It also will provide documentation to satisfy the state Division of Environmental Protection.

The county started cleaning and replacing the drywall from the control room where the spill started and removing the contaminated soil last year. In May, the county suspended the work temporarily because of concerns about the impact on the foundation of the building. The scope had grown beyond that of the initial emergency response.

Broadbent in August got the go-ahead for the excavation with the existing soil because development of a plan was needed to do the work in sections with a shoring system for safety reasons.

By the end of October, after the backfilling work was finished, the county delayed doing any more work until spring because of the winter weather.

The county’s insurance carrier determined it won’t cover any of the county’s costs because sensor failure is a “maintenance item and failed due to normal wear and tear,” the county report states.

Jo Ann Kitrell, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, said the county doesn’t face any penalties because it reported the spill and took responsibility for the cleanup.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.

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