Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spill the beans

Some may have missed the Daily Gazette’s back-page brief regarding a $10,000 allocation the Saratoga Springs City Council made Tuesday. Some may think the 55-gallon hydraulic oil spill at the city Department of Public Works garage at Van Rensselaer and Division Streets was ancient history.

Well, apparently the state Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t. City officials hired another law firm to contend with the agency more than 18 months after they first arrived on the scene of the lift leak at the garage. The 29-year-old lift apparently failed, causing roughly a drum of the noxious fluid to seep into the soil beneath the garage. DEC officials received a call about the spill just 10 minutes after it occurred on the morning before Valentine’s Day in 2007, just moments before nearly two feet of snow would blanket the city.

The initial response wasn’t reported to the press until more than a week later, when a Saratogian reporter discovered the debacle during council discussions of an emergency contract to clean up the mess. But as quick as the spill was discovered, cleaned and then publicized, it seemingly disappeared. That was until former Public Works fixture Tom McTygue came back with a bill for roughly $200,000 to do the work. Then-Mayor and McTygue nemesis Valerie Keehn suggested the hydraulic leak was part of a pattern with the DPW. And for once, she was partially right.

In 2007, there were five spill responses at the Van Rensselaer Street garage that were registered with the DEC. The number of spills reported in on year dwarfed those lodged during the previous decade. In fact, there were no spills reported at the garage during the decade before the DEC investigation kicked off. The last of the five reported in 2007 occurred in late October, just two weeks before the election that saw both McTygue and Keehn ushered out of city politics. Odd isn’t it?

Update: Mayor Scott Johnson weighed in on the whole debacle this week, just before DEC officials apparently pushed for a rescheduling of their Monday morning meeting. Johnson said the DEC was indeed going to spill the proverbial beans, at last tipping its hand to the city. He also said the whole damn flap was a situation of “politics at its worst” in the city, adding fuel to McTygue’s initial assertions.

Now there are plenty of boring theories why this could occur, namely that the DEC database is woefully inadequate in details; almost to the point where listing spills online is more or less senseless. But there are two other prevailing theories that are supported by the fact that the supposed nature watch dogs are still hammering away at their investigation long after the environmental impacts of these spills have become insignificant footnotes in the annals of newspaper clips.

First, there’s the theory that will undoubtedly make the McTygue critics chortle with delight. Considering the DEC was at the scene of the first hydraulic spill, they obviously observed some of the remediation. Perhaps they were tipped off to the spill by a whistle-blower, who knew these sorts of ‘accidents’ routinely went unreported and ignored. When workers started remediating the so-called 55 gallon spill, the watchful eyes of a DEC inspector may have notice soil being removed with a supersaturated content of the hazardous fluid.

Or worse yet, the state agents may have realized the DPW workers were simply ordered to take any tainted soil to a burgeoning construction debris landfill allegedly created by illegal dumpers. There are some conspiracy theory wingnuts who have persistently propagated this thought as part of an orchestrated effort to take McTygue down politically.

Then there’s the other theory. There is no denying Keehn’s connection with the DEC. Though her husband repeatedly claimed he had nothing to do with the DPW investigation, it’s not too difficult to imagine him cashing in a favor or two at the office, or a brief verbal discussion with the agency’s spill responders. And it’s clear that Keehn had a mole or three in the department, who probably had DEC’s spill response on speed-dial.

Once the ball is rolling on an investigation, state officials are hesitant to simply give up on the case. This is especially when one of their attorneys is quite clearly still politicking in Saratoga Springs. So it’s conceivable that David Keehn, a card-carrying member of the Democrats For Change splinter, is still fanning the flames of a dead investigation in order to besmirch the so-called McTygue faction in the run up to September’s primary. After all, all three McTygue brothers are running for spots on the city’s shattered Democratic Committee. They’re being challenged by Pubic Safety Czar Ron Kim’s wife and a pair of dubiously delusional Keehniacs named Thilo Ullmann and Hilary McLellan.

Either way, the DEC needs to drop the proverbial deuce or get off the pot. They need to explain why Saratoga Springs residents are paying two-fold for both sides of an investigation that was apparently launched to protect them from environmental hazards. And they need to do it soon, before they are again used as a political football. With the two-year anniversary of the spill just six months away, their probe into the DPW garage incident has become emblematic of the inefficiency that plagues our state government.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There must be a few barrels of automotive oil running out the storm sewer each year. All ya gotta do is look at the parking spots around town.

That oil will make for some slick tasting water when Tommy taps Saratoga Lake.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There must be a few barrels of automotive oil running out the storm sewer each year. All ya gotta do is look at the parking spots around town.

That oil will make for some slick tasting water when Tommy taps Saratoga Lake.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only tapping Tommy boy will be doing is on some ass end at the state pen! Can't wait for that to happen!

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oil is fairly easy to filter out before it enters the drinking supply as compared to PCBs.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy's oil fields! We are soooo indebted to him! We are not worthy.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shot - It's only money. Saratogians can afford to pay for the filtration process to remove oil from potable water along with the other substances that contaminate Saratoga Lake.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let face facts ! McTygue was a failure in office. The last 10 years or more our taxes continued to go up! He cost the city millions in fines,fees and lawsuits. The big water source was a farce. He couldn't deliver just like he held up the REC Center and Police Station for years. I still would not be surprised if he was just a Bruno pawn to get the county plan in place. He put up a good front but many dollars in campaign money came from Republicans who stand to make millions off a county water system. Maybe he was the problem getting Saratoga Lake water supply.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

Anon 3:09 PM: “Let face facts! McTygue was a failure in office.”

Um, I really am trying to not be in the habit of calling out individual comments, but I need to suggest that very few (meaning: none) politicians who remain in the same elective office for over a decade and then some, can be said to have ‘failed’ at anything.

That being said, my take on the entire McT. Administration has evolved, actually… overall it’s a positive score in my book, but it’s like buying a used tank (a great idea for travers weekend on Broadway, but I digress…) you feel the power, and you also see the inevitable dents that get accumulated along the way…

First and foremost, there is no way that you can overstate his sheer impact on the visual presentation of the city. For better or worse, the combination of vision, execution, and autocracy as needed, with ass-kicking optional DID things – for a long time, and by the bushel. Honestly, I can’t see how in this zip code, friends or foes of Mr. McT can view him as anything less than Bob Moses. There I said it- and it’s not the joyous compliment that it may appear to be… if you wiki the guy, you may be surprised by some things.

And – 3 words: Greatness inspires jealousy. It may come as a surprise how we eventually evaluate this whole era in political life. It is certainly not a republican only town anymore, for which a lot of people get credit, and it would be hard to leave the (often) only Democratic commissioner off the list….

But what should surprise no one who reads and posts is that:

1- You accumulate enemies and people who don’t like you over the time you administer a dept that impacts many local people’s livelihood. Heavy lies the head that wears the crown. And you don’t have to like the king, but you gotta respect his scepter.

2- These fines, etc. are relative chump change and sort of the cost of doing business. If this were a private company that plowed, salted, watered, plowed and plowed the city continuously, you would leak some oil too. And the fines if any would be taken care of, honestly and privately.

Since this is the public sector, we (rightfully) get to know and evaluate things…eventually.

3- I really don’t understand why people want to hound people who have retired and/or voted out of office with the equivalent of a public stoning. This is not a right- or left-wing phenomenon – you have examples on both sides. Some people don’t know how to accept victory with dignity. Sort of like Red Sox fans. Sorry.

4- Side Note: if we keep having Travers Day weather like this one, we could look like Calcutta in short order. Why would anyone not want to live here? I consider myself proud and thrilled to find and move to a fantastic city… (please stop telling your friends, though).

5- So on the quality of life impact-o-meter we are talking about Willie Mays numbers for Mr. McT, not always positive, but always brunt and forceful. His boat left a big wake, until it started leaking oil too.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Riley's on the Lake said...

McTygue and the Lake water was certainly an issue he could not deliver on! I didn't know he and Bruno were so close. It makes sense he was really a supporter of the county water supply. He sure showed his true colors backing republican ideas year after year.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Mamie said...

anon 3:09
You didn't here that from me, but, oh well, you know what you're saying!

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. The cool aid is pretty strong tonight....

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agphoto- You use baseball to comment on a politician! Well let me say you sound like a disgruntled yankee fan. It was great being on top ,but now that you lose year after year things and you have changed. Sour grapes! The yankees bought there way to greatness! McTygue cost us millions trying to achieve it! You over rate McTygue like a yankee fan tends to over rate their players, year after year.(See Melky,Ian Kennedy,Hughes,Cano,Aaron Small,and Shawn Chacon) All mediocre as was McTygue.

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Val's Glazed Look said...

Vanguard was in town over the weekend.

That's why these Keehn/DFC storm troopers are so fired up.

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This week in Denver, Democrats from around the country, including our own Ron Kim, will be attending their party's national convention, preparing to help Barack Obama take the White House and lead us away from the disastrous course Republicans have followed for the last 8 years.

This is a test for you. Will you emulate your idol, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, whose Fear and Loathing series chronicled the beginning of our national nightmare when Richard Nixon led the Republican Party into overt criminality and remade the Party of Lincoln into a gang that specializes in lying, cheating, and stealing? Or will you be unable to resist the temptation to bash the Democrats as you've so often done on this blog?

Be honest, HO. The Republicans are a disaster and the Democrats are the only alternative we have. Don't pretend that both parties are the same. They're not. Let's see if you can write the truth for once.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Valspar said...

I drank the kool aid! The next thing I know I was in bed with Tighe's ole lady!

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Rocco's Modern Life said...

How do you like that one (4:13), H?

Now you're a Republican sympathzer!

Next thing you know, this idiot will put in a call to Fox News for ya!

It just goes to show: the delusional Keehn Zombies are all about "us vs them". The only true Democrat is the DFC kind. If you're not with them you must be the enemy. And you must be detroyed, at all costs.

So, Brucie: crawl back into your hole and have a good time at the Nxivm session Thursday night.

6:51 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

Anon 3:54:

thanks for writing. as far as the 2008, and probably 2009 (although the new stadium may change priorities) the Yankee's are where they should be, and i am glad they are trying to make an investment in youth.

I grew up in the Sandy Koufax era, and i saw the lefty bang down the bombers 2x in 1963. Then got to see my all-time fave Bob Gibson smoke them in 1964 live (also the game b4 when mickey hit a 2-run walk-off off of Schultz after #7 made a rare error to let in the game's only run to this point - but that's another story...)

Every time the cardinals #45 came up he was given polite, and respectful applause. It was a stunning thing to see. Cards 5-2; Tresh ties it up 2-2 in the ninth; McCarver hits a 3-run in the 10th. Wild!

Then came the Yankee's nuclear winter. Remember:
Horace Clarke,
Jerry Kenney,
Charlie Smith,
Thad Tillitson,

I don't think i over-rate the yankees after enduing that time frame.

Anyway, it says here that it is Cubs over Angels in my future book bet. What say you?

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Rocco's Left Nut said...

anon 6:51 - Jealousy will get you nowhere. You are on the losing end of a fight. You are helpless so you attack anyone! How's your life from reality going?

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

agphoto - I was just starting into baseball as a kid in the 60's. As a matter of fact I agree about the people you mentioned. Bob Gibson was a beast. They don't have guys like that anymore. I remember the yankees with Tresh,Pepitone and Horace Clarke. They were truly awful. I was a sox fan in those days because all my friends loved their NY teams. I had to be different. I fondly remember Yaz, (my fave) hitting for the triple crown. They would have broken that curse that year if it wasn't for the bastard Gibson. As far as now, the two best teams are the cubs and angels. I don't see any other teams with all the injuries beat out either of them. I feel the cubs pain! Let's go cubs! Break that curse!

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great picture! That is how John Tighe left his toilet when he sold his house on Warren St. No wonder his ole lady snapped!

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Undercover at DFC said...

Jealous? Of who? Brucie?

Yes, I am. I have the hots for that little muffin cake!

I fanatisize of her whispering nxivm teachings into my ear all night long.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous mamie said...

undercover at dfc! Or John Tighe!
John you should really ease up on the sexual comments towards the women. If the problem lies at home then take care of it at home. I'm sure if you get off the obsession of politics your wife would like you better.

7:12 AM  

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