A long-forgotten remnant of Quincy’s past could cost more than $30,000 to dig up and remove.
Crews conducting investigative core drilling at the Dame Shirley Plaza discovered a large underground tank last month.
The tank was likely used to store fuel oil for the old Quincy Hotel, which burned to the ground in 1966.
“Nobody knew this tank was in the ground,” county facilities director Joe Wilson said. “Well, people knew. We just didn’t.”
Wilson guessed the tank is at least 45 years old. “It’s likely 70 years or older,” he said.
The first clue that it existed showed up March 20, when the Administrative Office of the Courts was drilling for soil samples in the park.
The state agency was taking the samples as part of environmental testing to see if the site was suitable for a proposed new courthouse.
Wilson said one test hole found evidence of petroleum contamination about five to 10 feet below the surface.
“It appeared in the form of odor and oily residue,” Wilson told county supervisors during their April 10 board meeting. “Once you find contamination, you’ve got to investigate it. And that is what we immediately began to do.”
Wilson’s investigation included checking with the county museum and “some old-timers” from the area.
“We were able to determine that there was indeed a tank buried on the property,” Wilson said.
Wilson contacted Plumas County Museum Director Scott Lawson, who contacted longtime Quincy resident Jim Gossett. Gossett, who is in his 80s, said he recalled seeing the tank being filled.
Lawson said the fuel oil was used to power a boiler that generated steam heat for the hotel.
With help from the public works department, the facilities crew drilled more holes and found the tank.
Wilson said it is about 20 feet long and seven feet in diameter. “And there is 12 inches of fuel left in it,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he brought the matter to the supervisors’ attention because he thought the county would need to appropriate more than $30,000 from its contingency fund to pay for the removal and cleanup.
But, as it turned out, the job will be covered by insurance.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible that (insurance) would cover it,” Wilson told the board. “But they are going to cover it up to $100,000.”
Wilson said the cleanup will entail removing and disposing of at least 200 cubic yards of material, including the old tank. He said the estimated cost is $32,000.
“But once we start digging, (the cost) might dramatically go higher, just depending on what we find,” Wilson said.
He asked the supervisors for permission to go ahead with his work plan. The board unanimously voted to start digging.
A history of fires
The Quincy Hotel, which opened in 1925, wasn’t the first hotel to burn down on that site.
The original structure, called the Plumas House Hotel, was built in 1853.
That hotel burned to the ground in 1866, but was quickly rebuilt. In 1873 it was expanded and improved.
According to historical accounts, the hotel “stood as a beacon in mountain accommodations.” But it burned down again in 1923.
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