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Posted on May 7, 2017
Tallahassee Reports has learned that taxpayers have paid approximately $2.1 million in the clean-up and failed refurbishment costs associated with the Hopkins fuel tank which leaked thousands of gallons of diesel fuel in 2012.
Tallahassee Reports has also learned it could cost an additional $2 million to put the tank back in service. The 7.5 million gallon tank is currently empty and has not been used since 2012.
The fuel spill was not publicly reported until TR wrote a series of investigative reports.
In a recent article, the Tallahassee Democrat characterized the diesel fuel spill as the “diesel disaster that wasn’t.” In the article, City Manager Rick Fernandez said that the total cost of the clean up to date was “slightly more than $500,000.”
Fernandez said the clean up costs and legal bills, which totaled approximately $750,000, were offset by a negotiated settlement of $650,000 from a lawsuit the city filed against the general contractor, Frucon Industrial Services (FIS).
However, what the Tallahassee Democrat failed to report and what City Manager Rick Fernandez did not volunteer, was the total cost of the accident including the refurbishment costs that were not recovered in the city initiated lawsuit and fuel removal costs.
After some investigating, TR was able to document the diesel spill cost taxpayers at least $2.1 million and if the tank that leaked is put back into service, the cost could increase to approximately $4 million.
Refurbishment Costs $1.80 million
Fuel Removal Costs $0.20 million
Clean-Up Costs $0.50 million
Outside Legal Costs $0.25 million
Total Costs $2.75 million
Settlement for City $0.65 million
Total Cost to Taxpayers $2.10 million
In 201o Frucon Industrial Services charged the City of Tallahassee approximately $1.8 million to refurbish the 7.5 million gallon tank. The work included a “Leak Detection System” required by new environmental rules.
Two years later city workers discovered diesel fuel in a nearby canal – the recently installed leak detection system had failed. The City of Tallahassee began removing and transporting fuel from the tank to the city owned Purdom Plant located at St. Marks.
Tallahassee Reports obtained documents that show 407 trips were made by trucks around the clock for two weeks moving almost three million gallons of diesel fuel.
Tallahassee Reports has made a request for the trucking company invoices, but to date has not received a response.
But sources familiar with trucking costs estimate that companies would charge between $500 to $1000 per trip, especially if the contract was negotiated under the pressure of an emergency for the city. These costs would cover hauling time, fuel, drivers’ room and board, and liability costs.
At $500-$1,000 per round trip, transporting the fuel to St. Marks from Hopkins could have cost the city between $200,000 to $400,000. For the purpose of the total cost calculation, TR used the $200,000 estimate.
City documents show the clean -up costs were approximately $500,000 and outside legal bills for the lawsuit filed over the leak cost approximately $250,000.
Based on the estimates outlined above, the total cost for outside vendors was calculated to be $2.8 million.
The City of Tallahassee did receive $650,000 through a legal settlement in 2015. Netting the costs with the settlement, the total outside cost was $2.15 million.
Other factors indicate this estimate is actually low.
For example, the cost estimate does not include the cost incurred by city employees assigned to the clean-up and those who worked on the legal settlement negotiations which lasted just over a year.
Also, what is the cost to not having access to the diesel fuel at Hopkins plant?
TR will continue to investigate.