Tallahassee Democrat Verifies TR’s Findings on Hopkins Fuel Spill

Tallahassee Democrat Verifies TR’s Findings on Hopkins Fuel Spill

The Tallahassee Democrat has finally weighed in on the fuel spill at the Hopkins Generating Station that has avoided public view for over five years.

Despite the title of the Democrat’s story, “The Diesel Disaster that Wasn’t”, the details in the report verified thousands of gallons of diesel leaked into the groundwater at the Hopkins Generating Station. Other key findings published by Tallahassee Reports were also verified.

However, the Tallahassee Democrat’s story, written by Jeff Burlew, relies on the revision of information published five years ago. For example, ARCADIS – a current city vendor, has changed key numbers they provided in reports back in 2012.

Also, the City only calculated an estimate of the spill after Tallahassee Reports published a story on the spill on April 9, 2017.

Listed below are the facts verified in the Tallahassee Democrat story.

First, TR reported that there was a major fuel spill at the Hopkins Generating Station that was never acknowledged publicly by the City of Tallahassee.

From the Tallahassee Democrat story:

the city never issued a news release on the leak, which led to years of environmental monitoring that is only now wrapping up, or later litigation that led to a six-figure settlement for the city. City commissioners, who were informed about the leak in emails, never discussed it publicly during a commission meeting.

Commissioner Nancy Miller said that looking back, the commission should have held a public discussion about the leak to allay any concerns. Commissioner Gil Ziffer said the city probably should have notified the general public.

Second, TR reported that, based on the ARCADIS report, 600,000 gallons of diesel fuel was unaccounted for.

From the Tallahassee Democrat story:

The ARCADIS report mentioned on one page that some 3 million gallons of diesel was in the tank at the time the leak was discovered. Elsewhere, the report said the city transferred 2.4 million gallons of diesel from the leaking tank to other tanks

Now, five years later, the City says the ARCADIS report is wrong. From the Tallahassee Democrat story:

Neither city officials nor current and former ARCADIS officials could say exactly why the report listed 2.4 million gallons when the actual number was closer to 3 million.

Third, TR reported that, based on the ARCADIS report, there was an estimated 32,000 gallons of diesel fuel in the groundwater.

From the Tallahassee Democrat story:

A March 27, 2012, report by the firm estimated that “up to 32,000 gallons” of diesel were located beneath the site.

After TR’s reporting, ARCADIS, now has a different estimate. From the Tallahassee Democrat story.

Joe Applegate, a geologist who served as ARCADIS’ project director early on, told the Tallahassee Democrat the estimate was based on the thickness of diesel found in monitoring wells, a calculation that can lead to over estimates.

“The total volume that was released was likely less than 5,000 gallons,” he said. “And we believe that our recovery system extracted the vast majority of the product from the subsurface.”

Until now, ARCADIS has never indicated there were problems with the numbers in their original reports and the estimate of 5,000 gallons has never been published in a report authored by ARCADIS.

Also, the City of Tallahassee told the Florida DEP that the amount of the spill was unknown despite having access to transfer data and fuel logs as early as March 2012.

7 Responses to "Tallahassee Democrat Verifies TR’s Findings on Hopkins Fuel Spill"

  1. Who cares about a few thousand gallons of diesel fuel getting spilled and not making the public aware? We have bigger issues, like dog poo, and we are making the public aware. I will pick up my dog poo, but it’s only a few gallons of old oil if I pour it out on the ground. Nothing like what happened at Hopkins which was no big deal, so we’re good here.

  2. The Democrat was clearly in defensive mode. They got scooped on the story and were embarrassed.
    Lots of free advertising for TR. Many more citizens now know there is an alternative newspaper available. You should send the TD editorial staff a thank you note.

  3. Can’t help but wonder what the report would have been like had the spill occurred at a commercial fuel storage facility? Would the vague statement of we don’t know how much was spilled have been adequate?

  4. Request for information FDEP:


    I would like to find out exactly what reports and findings are on file concerning the City of Tallahassee Hopkins power plant diesel spill. I would also like to review correspondence (between FDEP and the City of Tallahassee, their staff and agents, and any 3rd parties involved clean-up and recovery reports.

    The bottom line here is, what was the scope of the spill? Was it and is it contained? What hazard still remains? Does it pose a public health risk, and if so, what is the scope of that risk? Who knows what, when? It is obvious there was a response. The question shifts to whether the response included appropriate public notice in accordance with Florida and Federal law. With regard to the spill, has DEP determined fault, assigned culpability, responsibility and / or liability? And finally, what fines, penalties, citations or other corrective and / or punitive action been taken (or anticipated to be taken) in this matter? Has DEP made any recommendations for public notice?

    Simply stated, I am a citizen who wants to know what is truth, what is distorted or misrepresented truth, and what is fiction? I hope your agency can provide clarity.

    Arthur Kirby
    Tallahassee, Florida

    FDEP preliminary reply:

    Dear Mr. Kirby,

    Thank you for contacting us with your questions about the 2012 diesel spill at the Hopkins Generating Plant in Tallahassee. We will begin searching for records responsive to your request and advise you of associated costs.

    As we begin our search please find some information on this issue below that you may find useful:

    On Jan. 20, 2012, the City of Tallahassee Hopkins Generating Plant reported the discovery of a leak in their red-dye above ground bulk diesel fuel storage tank to the State Watch office and DEP’s Leon County petroleum storage tanks inspectors. A site inspection was performed the same day and DEP began communicating with the city on immediate response activities. These activities focused on stopping the leak, removing remaining fuel from the leaking tank, and containing the released fuel with booms and skimmers.

    While the tank capacity is 7.52 million gallons, the City estimated that approximately 3 million gallons of diesel fuel was in the tank at the time of the discovery of the leak. As part of their response activities, the City completely drained the tank and trucked the remaining diesel to another facility.

    Since the initial response activities, DEP has continued to assist the facility with their ongoing site assessments, recovery efforts and long-term monitoring plan to ensure protection of human health and the environment.

    Recovery actions implemented under an Interim Remedial Action Plan resulted in the recovery of 782 gallons of liquid diesel and 60 gallons of dissolved/vapor diesel. The facility also conducted a complete site assessment, after which they began long-term quarterly monitoring to ensure continued protection.

    All assessment reports and monitoring data to date indicate that impacts of the spill have remained onsite.

    For an external perspective on the story, below is a link to an article on the event that appeared in Tallahassee Democrat newspaper on April 26, 2017.



    Office of Public Services
    3900 Commonwealth Blvd
    Tallahassee, FL 32399


    1. Seems like FDEP votes for the democrat story. Maybe they actually got one right. First time for everything. Either that or it must be an awfully big conspiracy between local and state. But i thought the state hated our city government? What are the incorrect facts in the TD story?

  5. Thank you Tallahassee Reports for informing the public of the spill! The commissioners should of done it in 2012. Apparently their reelection campaigns are more important than citizens health, welfare, and safety. Jeff Burlew’s screed is a prime example of bad, unprofessional, and biased reporting that causes great harm to this community. How did Mr. Burlew’s personal vendetta get by the editor? If WCTV knew about the spill there is no doubt the Tallahassee Democrat did, also. What was Mr. Burlew’s culpability in this cover-up? Why is he so recklessly determined to accommodate the usual suspects secrets and collude in their cover-ups? Again, the Tallahassee Democrat uses reckless determination to attack the messenger at the expense of public safety and welfare. Also, did this monumental cover-up play into the commissioners decision NOT to do a nationwide search for a city manager? They all decided to scratch each others backs and prevent the public from a qualified manager? There is public infrastructure failure after failure and Burlew has a meltdown because the public knows the truth. The Tallahassee Democrat should print an apology to Tallahassee Reports and send Mr. Burlew to a course in Journalism 101. The mayor should resign and a nationwide search for a city manager should commence.

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