A burst pipeline spilled about 80,000 gallons of heating oil into the ground and sewers of Curtis Bay last fall, according to a state geologist. The previously unreported oil spill came to light when Linda Stewart, proprietor of the Gaslight Tavern, started asking why local manholes were left uncovered. Stewart has been battling high and variable water bills as well as other water-related issues in her neighborhood for
. Forest Arnold, a regional geologist with the Maryland Department of the Environment, left a message on Stewart's phone explaining that his agency had left some manhole covers tipped up in order to monitor and retrieve absorbent pads to soak up any remaining oil. "We haven't had any oil for a while," Arnold tells City Paper on Feb. 12. The spill originated at the Center Point Terminal at 3100 Vera St. "some time in the fall," Arnold says, after the rupture of one of the eight- or 10-inch-wide underground pipes connecting the huge oil tanks to the "rack" where oil truck fill up. The underground pipes have since been replaced with aboveground pipes, he added. Arnold could not offer more detail, saying there are "legal issues" surrounding the spill. He says that 45,000 gallons of oil had been recovered, and was unsurprised by the lack of media coverage. It's "not that unusual," he says. "We deal with a couple thousand spills in our unit a year60 percent or so are petroleum." A man who answered the phone at the terminal said he could not speak to a reporter and gave two phone numbers for the corporate headquarters of Apex Oil in Clayton, Mo. Both numbers were no good. An e-mail sent to Apex's legal council was not returned.