ONEONTA _ The clean-up of a 270-gallon fuel spill on the State University College at Oneonta campus was largely completed by late Wednesday morning, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The accident occurred Tuesday afternoon when workers performing maintenance on the SUCO heating plant pumped oil into an already full tank, said DEC spokesman Rick Georgeson.

About 200 gallons stayed in the heating plant and was recovered. But 70 gallons escaped into a storm-water system into Silver Creek, he said.

The oil in the creek was not discovered until about five hours later after the smell of fuel in the Center City area was reported to the Oneonta Fire Department.

About 95 percent of the oil that escaped was caught in a retention pond along Silver Creek between West Street and Spruce Street and has been recovered, Georgeson said.

"We don't anticipate any significant environmental impacts," Georgeson said.

The college will be paying for the cleanup costs and hired the private firm Environmental Protection Services, which began working at about midnight Tuesday, said Norm Payne, assistant director of facilities at SUCO.

"The bulk of it is done," Payne said.

There is not yet an estimate of the cleanup cost, Payne said.

The initial spill was at first believed to be limited to the heating plant, but some of the oil went down a floor drain in the heating plant and into a storm-water system that enters Silver Creek. Silver Creek flows into the Millrace around Neahwa Park, which in turn empties into the Susquehanna River.

The viscosity of the oil was so thick that it took a long time to flow down the Silver Creek before it was noticed, SUCO spokeswoman Carol Blazina said.

"We are so grateful this was dealt with and cleaned up so it had the minimal amount of impact on the environment," Blazina said.

Oneonta Fire Chief Robert Barnes said the retention pond helped staunch the flow of oil.

"If the retention pond wasn't there, all of this would have ended up in the river," Barnes said.

As a precaution, two booms were set up in the Millrace downstream from the mouth of Silver Creek.

There were no significant amounts of oil detected above the booms, Barnes said.

"From our standpoint, I think things went well," Barnes said.

The heating plant is an older building and floor drains of the type involved in the spill are not uncommon in older buildings, Barnes said. But the drain would not be allowed in modern buildings, he said.

The college has plugged the drain and is evaluating its heating plant to ensure this doesn't happen again, Blazina said.

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