Answers to Some Questions about the Abbott Woods Oil Spill

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Alice Dreger for ELi

An East Lansing snowplow passes passes the intersection of Abbot Road and Abbott Woods Drive in early Feb., 2021.

East Lansing Director of Public Works Scott House has gotten back to us on questions regarding the oil spill at the Abbott Woods condo complex on New Year’s Eve 2020. ELi reported earlier this week that the spill was substantial enough to now be expected to cost the City at least $34,000 more to clean up.

It was about a month after the spill and initial clean-up that a resident of Abbott Woods pointed to evidence that the oil had gotten into the retention pond. That’s when the City began efforts on a bigger clean-up.

On the day of the spill, did the workers do anything to try to contain the spill while the Oil-Dri or similar oil-absorbing product was sent over?

“No,” answered House. “Since this was a holiday, the limited Sanitation staff were the only ones in that day so there wasn’t anyone available to bring the material to them. Staff drove the truck back to DPW and then returned to the site with a different truck to apply it.”

How much time elapsed between the spill and when the Oil-Dri (or similar product) was applied?

Said House, “As soon as the driver realized what was happening, he reached out to his Lead [tracking staff member] and then headed to DPW to get the spill product. The driver is on vacation and can be asked the approximate time when he returns on Monday.” (We’ll update this when we get the answer.)

How much Oil-Dri or other oil-absorbing product was used after the hydraulic oil spill, which has now been estimated at 55 gallons?

House says that the staff person “who tracks the spill product and the driver who used the product are both on vacation this week. We can get an answer to this question when they return on Monday.” (We’ll update this when we get the answer.)

After the oil-absorbing product was applied, the City used a street sweeper to clean up the material. What happened with the material swept up by the street sweeper?

House explained that “The material swept up from the spill was dumped on the pad at DPW and is awaiting proper disposal.”

We asked House how cost overages will be handled in terms of approvals if the costs turn out to be higher than the estimates on the contracts City Council approved.

He answered, “The dollar amounts listed on the agenda and approved by Council were for estimated amounts and it was stated that the actual amount billed will be actual costs based on the rate sheets attached by the Consultant and the Contractor. A final cost will be reported to Council once the project is completed and the costs are known.”

We reported on Wednesday that City staff decided not to bid-out the contracts and to instead choose the geographically-closest contractor based on three recommended by a consultant.

Finally, a reader asked, “Does the City provide Abbott Woods [which is a private condo complex with private roads] with sanitation services that all residents receive, or on a contractual basis? Does the City plow the private road and otherwise maintain it?”

House responded that the garbage pick-up service “is funded by the solid waste millage,” which appears as a tax on property tax bills in East Lansing. “The city does not plow and or maintain the private road,” according to House.

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