The owner of the former Swezey’s building on East Main Street will be required by the State DECE to conduct soil tests to determine whether fuel oil that leaked from storage tanks inside the vacant store poses any threat to the Peconic River, a DEC spokesperson said today.

The heating oil leaked when someone cut the copper lines to two fuel oil storage tanks inside the former Swezey’s Department Stores building at 127 E. Main St. some time prior to Nov. 21, Riverhead Fire Marshal Craig Zitek told RiverheadLOCAL Saturday. The date of the vandalism is not known, but is believed to be prior to Nov. 17, when heavy rains filled the storm drains in the municipal lot behind the store and caused the oil to float to the surface and spill onto the pavement, Zitek said.

The no. 2 heating oil leaked via a floor drain inside the building into 10 storm drains in the parking lot behind it, DEC spokesperson Bill Fonda said.

IMG_1961The amount of fuel oil that leaked when the lines were cut is not known, Fonda said, but a DEC contractor recovered 982 gallons of oil and water and eight to nine cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the parking lot drains.

“An absorbent boom was placed in drains and DEC will continue to monitor for any further impacts,” Fonda said in an email.

The DEC checked the area after another heavy rainfall this Monday that flooded the parking lot and did not observe any further oil impacts, the spokesperson said.

Riverhead Enterprises, which owns the building, will be required to follow up with the cleanup inside the building, including removal of contamination from the floor drain and proper closure of the drain, Fonda wrote. While DEC removed contaminated sediment from the storm drains, the property owner will also be required to conduct post-cleanup soil sampling in six drains that did not have a concrete bottom, the spokesperson said. Based upon the results of that sampling, further cleanup may be required, he said.

The incident’s close proximity to the Peconic River is a concern to environmental regulators, Fonda said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.