Babylon Town launched an experiment Tuesday to find better ways to secure oil tanks in rising water, the results of which could be applied throughout Long Island's flood zones.
Town officials, who recorded more than 300 oil spills after superstorm Sandy, hope the oil tank test results in new standards for anchoring tanks in flood-prone areas.
The experiment involved placing two weighted tanks each in two 30-foot roll-off containers and filling the containers with water. Tanks in one container were secured with a concrete slab while the others were held in sand with augers and steel cables. A slightly different method of anchoring was used on each tank.
The town's chief environmental analyst, Richard Groh, led the effort, partnering with nonprofit Underwriters Laboratories Inc. of Melville and the trade group Oil Heat Institute of Long Island, along with local consulting and insurance restoration companies.
Town flood code regulations address the anchoring of tanks installed for new construction but do not provide specifications, Groh said. He said he expects insight gained from the experiment could be used as part of the town's permit process and be applied elsewhere.
"We're hoping we're going to develop a specification that's embraced by the agencies and by the industry at the same time," Groh said. "We want to be more prepared for the next storm."
The experiment was intended to mimic standing floodwaters, which Groh said caused most of the oil spills after Sandy. Tanks broke free from outside homes, as well as from underground, basements and crawl spaces, he said. Some residents discovered tanks containing oil that had been buried underground or built over with walls, he said.
On hand for the experiment was Karen Gomez, regional spill engineer for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Gomez helped address post-Sandy spills stretching from Mastic to the Queens border, she said.
"We had anticipated having spills, but I don't think we anticipated the magnitude," she said. "If doing this can help identify a standard for tanks in flood areas, it'd be great."
Suffolk County officials did not witness the experiment, but spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said the information ascertained will help in "crafting local, state and national regulations" for oil tanks.
Hours after being submerged, one tank broke free. Workers plan to monitor the tanks and make calculations for weeks to come.
"Even a failure is good," Groh said. "Either way, we'll know what works or not."