Some surprises are fun. Others can be expensive.
The county got a nasty one Wednesday afternoon when workers discovered a rail car buried under the courthouse, filled with what officials believe to be fuel oil.
County commissioner Ralph Fegley said workers discovered the rail car in the process of doing electrical work under the courthouse as part of a $1.5 million renovation project designed to increase energy efficiency.
The rail car, buried about four feet below the surface, runs between the courthouse and the old jail and is 30-feet long and about eight- or 10-feet in diameter only the top of the car is visible right now. Fegley said the tank is probably filled with fuel oil that was used for heating. Pete Welch, the county's building and ground supervisor, had someone come in to test the substance.
"It is a surprise to us," Fegley said. "Had we known it was there, we would have had that taken care of a long time ago."
Fegley said he was confident the tank had no leaks, because it was almost filled with oil.
Removing the tank, required both for the project and by the Environmental Protection Agency, will not come cheap. While the county does not yet have an estimate, Fegley said it could cost as much as $10,000 to $20,000.
"It's got to come out," he said. "We can't leave that there, once you discover you have a tank like that, EPA rules are you take care of it."
The project initially called for a junction box with three lines one incoming line and one each to the courthouse and old jail to be installed where the rail car is located. However, the old electrical service equipment is in the way, as is a four-inch gas line.
"It's going to be a little involved back there," Fegley said of the tank's removal.
The new equipment might be installed in a different location, he said, adding the county commissioners and contractors would talk about that in the next few days.
This surprise complication is not expected to push back the project's target completion date. The Huron County Common Pleas Court will be moved to Norwalk High School sometime between June 7 and 9 and remain there until about mid-August, when most of the major construction will have been completed including the installation of new duct work and piping. The project should be completed by late September, Fegley said.
He added that, after the tests get back, it is possible someone or some company could use the fuel oil located in the tank. "They've got it pretty well covered now, we're just waiting for answers."