Downtown Fuel Tank Farm Removal Underway

Written By: Jason Graziadei | Photography By: Kit Noble

The removal of one of the last remaining remnants of Nantucket’s industrial waterfront began this week, as the dismantling of the downtown fuel tank farm got underway.

Sparks rained down on Salem Street while the sounds and vibration of a large excavator permeated the Boat Basin as crews from Costello Dismantling started taking down the silos piece by piece.

The aging fuel tanks are owned by Winthrop Nantucket and were previously operated by Harbor Fuel before the company moved its operations out of town to Industry Road, near the airport.

Fire chief Steve Murphy said this week that he has been heavily involved in the preparations and safety precautions for the large scale project, working directly with Winthrop, its consultant VHB, and numerous other groups.

“It’s been better than a year we’ve been working on this,” Murphy said. “My biggest concern and worry has always been breaking that (concrete) dyke wall and allowing whatever is in there to come out. I know that area needs to be remediated. We’ve had fuel spills and foam applied, so we all know there’s product in there that needs to be remediated.”

To that end, Murphy said he helped ensure there was a proper stormwater management plan for the project to avoid any runoff from the demolition site into the harbor should there be rain while the work is ongoing.

“All but two of the tanks have been cleaned, certified gas free, and are out of service,” Murphy said. “We required a plan in case there was a lot of rain, so they’ll have 50,000 gallons of rainwater holding capacity with an eight-inch lip around the site. They’ve also agreed to bring in frac tanks to pump water and haul if we need to. We have a plan A, plan B and plan C.”

The tank removal project is being commissioned by the current owner of the property, Winthrop Nantucket. In May, Winthrop submitted an application to the Conservation Commission for approval to demolish eight of the 11 fuel tanks. The final three will be removed at a later date after two small new tanks are constructed to service the Boat Basin. There has been some disruption and loss of parking spaces in the Stop & Shop parking when the work is ongoing, but a detail police officer has helped keep the traffic churning.

The tank farm property is all that remains of Winthrop’s once sprawling portfolio of downtown island real estate, which it acquired from the late Walter Beinecke’s Sherburne Associates in 1986. In recent years, it has been selling its holdings, including the most recent sale in December 2020 of several downtown properties including Stop & Shop, The Haulover, Fresh, and Hepburn, to Steve Karp’s New England Development. The town is currently exploring the possibility of purchasing the tank farm parcel once the fuel silos are removed, as it is a key property for the potential redevelopment of the waterfront area known as Harbor Place.

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