Thurso High oil leak could cost 'hundreds of thousands of pounds' to remedy, says Caithness councillor
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AN oil leak at Thurso High school could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to remedy, local community councillors have been told.
Thurso and Northwest Caithness Highland ward representative, Matthew Reiss, said the leak, which happened in September and closed the games hall, resulted in 3000 litres of heating oil seeping out of a tank at the school and going into the nearby river.
He said the cost of the work could be "hundreds of thousands of pounds" although he stressed the figure would depend on how much ground was contaminated.
The leak from a bunded oil tank close to the school’s games hall was understood to have been discovered by workmen who were clearing ground for the new temporary classrooms at the site to replace those lost by the closure of the school's Block A after significant structural faults were discovered. The building was deemed to be at risk of collapse as it was constructed with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) – a material which subsequently forced hundreds of schools and other buildings to be closed throughout the country.
Councillor Reiss said the oil contamination may not be as bad as had first been thought but would cost a lot of money to fix and could delay the work on the temporary classrooms. He said Block A is due to be demolished next summer.
His fellow councillor and Thurso provost, Struan Mackie, described the work as "relatively complex and expensive" and said the loss of the Block A and the expected delay in building the temporary classrooms could "potentially impact the quality of education" at Thurso High. He pointed out that the games hall is a facility which was used by the school as well as sports clubs and members of the public.
Highland Council contacted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Water after the oil leak and took urgent measures to mitigate any contamination, using specialist contractors. The heating oil tank served the games hall, which was closed, but the rest of the school is open.
The games hall was monitored to find out how much oil was below the building, and what remedial works would be required to treat any contamination. It was hoped the bulk of any works could take place during the October holidays to minimise disruption.
At the time, the council admitted there would be “some slippage” to the construction works of the temporary classrooms.
As previously reported, Block A – three-storey extension dating from the 1960s – will be demolished and the site and adjoining blocks will be made good at a cost of £1.2 million.