WOODBRIDGE - The town last Tuesday received a big boost for an ongoing project to revitalize an area contaminated almost six years ago by an underground gasoline leak: a state grant of nearly $1 million.

The $946,230 award from the state Underground Storage Tank Petroleum Clean-Up Account Review Board "is huge for the town of Woodbridge," said First Selectwoman Amey Marrella.

"This will go a long way toward helping the town with its finances," Marrella said. "It's a substantial award of funds … and we are very appreciative of what the (Department of Environmental Protection) did in reviewing the record."

The DEP recommended the amount granted to the town, state documents show. The underground storage tank board also awarded a total of $43,769 to three homeowners in the area of the contamination discovered near Town Hall in 1999.

An estimated 955 gallons of gasoline leaked from a storage tank in the 12 or so months prior to discovery of the leak, and significantly more fuel leaked in months and years before that, state documents say.

While use of the money is up to the boards of Finance and Selectmen, Marrella said she would recommend the grant proceeds go toward continued improvements at the town's public works facility and the surrounding area.

The town in 2001 had to fill in a 30-foot-deep, 100-foot-wide hole left after the $3 million cleanup of the underground gasoline leak, which tainted soil and well water. Nearly 20,000 cubic yards of clean soil was used to fill the hole. The town borrowed $2.9 million and spent about $190,000 from the General Fund on the cleanup.

The area, however, including a public works garage that lost a third of its area in order to remove contaminated soil, still needs work, Marrella said. The hope also is to make aesthetic improvements that will shield certain public works operations from the public eye, Marrella said.

The town previously received a $350,000 grant for the revitalization of the area, and has set aside a further $250,000 over time for the project, Marrella said.

The consequences of the gasoline leak left the town without adequate garage space and without enough space for employees. Marrella said it is important for the town to improve the public works area both for municipal crews and for storage of equipment. A new state-of-the-art, aboveground gasoline storage tank already has been installed; it also helps keep track of fuel use, Marrella said.