The Green School, which opened its doors in 1853, is on land that the state has declared a hazardous site threatening groundwater. The cause is a leak from an oil tank used to heat the school in modern times. Advocates are raising money to save the historic building during the cleanup.
The Green School, an abandoned one-room schoolhouse, sits nestled among trees on the corner of Plympton and Wood streets, nearly unchanged since it opened its doors in 1853.
Back then, schoolchildren were warmed in winter months by a pot-bellied stove.
But today, the state has declared the property a hazardous site threatening groundwater. The cause is a leak from an oil tank used to heat the school in modern times.
The 200-gallon oil tank was not emptied when the school was closed in 1992, according to consultant William R. Hoyerman, assistant division manager of Coler & Colantonio, the company hired by the School Department to assess the situation.
The police discovered the leak and reported it to the state Department of Environmental Protection last August. Hoyerman estimates at least 100 gallons of heating oil leaked from the tank.
Cleanup issues arose last week when selectmen met with Superintendent Robert Sullivan and interested parties to discuss the matter.
In a letter dated Jan. 21 to Sullivan, Hoyerman wrote, “To date we have not detected any petroleum impact in the groundwater at the site, but as time progresses, it becomes more likely that contaminations will migrate downward through the sandy soils and impact the groundwater.”
If the groundwater is affected, future cleanup costs imposed by the DEP could exceed $50,000 said Hoyerman.
Sullivan told selectmen the School Department has spent $42,000 toward the initial cleanup and will ask town meeting on May 26 to approve a warrant article reimbursing the School Department for its expense.
It’s a simple cleanup, but the building is in the way, selectmen Chairman Patrick Rogers said about plans to remove the contaminated soil under the school.
Hoyerman said his company has received estimates up to $66,000 to shore up and repair the building to make it structurally sound for lifting during the cleanup process.
Hoyerman said time is running out and an Immediate Action Compliance Report must be submitted to the DEP on the 8.5-acre site by Aug. 25, the anniversary when the contamination was discovered, or the town could face fines.
When word spread that the only way to clean the site may be to demolish the school, residents responded with their wallets.
Lincoln Andrews, a former selectman and Planning Board member, spearheaded a fundraising effort last Friday and raised $9,000 within three days with pledges from more than 25 people. Lincoln told selectmen he felt confident he could raise $15,000 by the end of this week to save the school and clean the contamination.
Historical Commission Chairwoman Jane Lopes said the Plymouth Street school is one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses in Middleboro and represents the history of public education in New England.
Lopes said the Green School is located in an area once considered downtown Middleboro, near the militia training ground, church on the green and surrounded by historic homes. Currently the area is under consideration for designation as a National Historic Register District.
Another concern is the building has lead paint that is peeling from the siding and must be removed if future use of the building is considered, Hoyerman added.
Andrews said those who would like to pledge money toward the cleanup of the site may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call him at 508-947-7071.