Archive for Friday, May 5, 2006

Gas station ordered to remove tanks

Fuel leak suspected in house fire

May 5, 2006


The owners of the Presto Convenience Store at 602 W. Ninth St. were ordered to remove the store's underground storage tanks Thursday after state workers detected fresh quantities of gasoline.

"They've asked us to remove the tanks, and we will," company vice president Doug Wald said.

The gasoline was discovered Wednesday evening, shortly after a series of observation tubes were installed.

"Approximately 3 feet of gasoline was observed in the bottom of the pit that surrounds the tanks," said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

One hundred fifty gallons of fresh gasoline was pumped from the pit Thursday, she said.

"That's significant," Watson said.

A fuel-tank leak is suspected of causing a fire Sunday that destroyed a five-apartment house at 838 La. The house is across the street east from the convenience store.

Pressure tests on Wednesday found the tanks and their connecting lines to be leak free.

But on Thursday, Watson said, "some indications were found that a couple areas may not have been completely sealed."

Workers also noted the tanks, installed in 1978, were embedded in clay rather than sand.

"Clay, over time, can result in rust," Watson said.

Plans call for removing the tanks Monday.

"They will be expected to remove as much of the pit as possible," Watson said.

Replacement costs, she said, will not be covered by the Kansas Petroleum Storage Tank trust funds.

Wald said he expects most of the costs to be covered by the store's insurance.

"That's what I've been doing all day - meeting with insurance agents," he said.

The trust fund, financed by a 1 cent per gallon fee on petroleum products, is expected to cover most of the state's costs in responding to the leak.

Neither Watson nor Wald were willing to predict the costs of the cleanup or of the new tanks. State workers have been on the scene round-the-clock since Sunday morning.

Wald said he was at a loss to explain how the leaks had eluded earlier monitoring and testing.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "If we're responsible for this, we're going to take care of it. We're going to do whatever KDHE tells us to do."


Kelly Powell 12 years, 1 month ago

For those who lost their stuff in the fire......SUE EM! SUE THEIR BUTTS OFF!..... this is gross negligence and could of caused even more damage than what it did.

blessed3x 12 years, 1 month ago

I usually don't buy into the sue-happy mentality but this is definitely a situation where it MUST be done. I hope these people make a bundle off their lawsuit.

Raider 12 years, 1 month ago

"For those who lost their stuff in the fire......SUE EM! SUE THEIR BUTTS OFF!..... this is gross negligence and could of caused even more damage than what it did."

How typically Lawrence. SUE! SUE! SUE!

It's not Presto, it's the people who installed the tanks. Additionally, KDHE has the responsibility of monitoring these tanks, and apparently they haven't been. I believe an earlier article said that Presto had reported a fuel loss to KDHE, and the state cleared them and told them it must be the result of poor accounting on their end. Presto had done their job by reporting this to the proper state regulators months ago, and the state didn't follow up. So who's being negligent now? Sounds to me like someone in Topeka should be held accountable as well.

betti81 12 years, 1 month ago

it does sound like the gas station did follow the rules and regulations. but, they would be "smart" to offer a settlement up front and avoid being sued. might save some money and "face" this way.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

I have worked in the Environmental business sector for a decade in Lawrence before moving to much greener pastures. KDHE IS partly responsible. They have laws on the books stating they were to check on it. There was a 2300 gallon loss. WHY was there no ACTION. These are the same gusy BTW that dumped 19 truckloads of fuel contaminated soil RIGHT NEXT TO THE RIVER BY THE BOAT RAMP!!! The soil came from a site the city had which was "cleared" by KDHE under the LUST program. Sharon is a paid liar and apologist for KDHE. I do not know how she can look at herself in the mirror in the morning.

The other thing about KDHE is they do not even try to enforce asbestos laws either. As for the environmental laws, KHDE is not interested in enforce ment. They want to be consultants, which is very difficult when you are the regulator. A clear Conflict of interest.

BTW, the SFAAP is being left to the yahoos at KDHE and not listed as an NPL site. THis after they said there was no release of asbestos after burning 1496 buildings (some of which blew up) by taking 11 samples on the first 3 burns. The is a release and makes it not eligible fot transfer funder the FOSET rules. But KDHE pushed that through didn't they.

KDHE is not about pollution and regulation or health. They are about enabling developers and politicians.

hawkbygod 12 years, 1 month ago

Neither the tenants nor the landlord are going to see large amounts of money on this one, Kansas Tort law will not allow it. You will see a settlement covering the tenant's loss of personal property and attorney fees, and the landlord's loss of the house. The money will be split between the three groups based on who messed up the most.

The big battle in this case will be which group pays for the clean up costs.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

And KDHE needs to pay for it too. They wiffed this one totally. This site was a LUST fund site, cleared by KDHE, the tanks installation, cleared by KDHE, this latest item, KDHE could not fing the cause.

How many ways can you illustrate incopetence?

And last year there is a tank which pushed up through a slab on 6 th street. KDHE was also supposed to check on that one.

What was Gary Blackburn doing, it was his program.

compmd 12 years, 1 month ago

Right on, Raider.

But seriously, if Presto reports a fuel loss, and KDHE does pressure tests and the tanks pass all the tests, it does make sense that KDHE would blame Presto's accounting. This is not "gross negligence." People were doing their jobs, and an unforeseen problem arose. Yes, eventually you can find out what happened, and probably even who exactly to blame. But was their truly negligence involved?

The problem with a generally non-scientific, non-engineering population (cough Lawrence cough) is that people don't understand component failure. Parts fail, simple as that, its only a matter of time. However, the time when they do fail should be predictable, and repair or replacement should be anticipated with those who are to do the repair or replacement ready.

This is a tragic incident. However, before we go assigning blame, how about we actually figure out what happened first using established scientific methods rather than typical angry Kansan assumptions and finger pointing? Presto seems completely willing to get to the bottom of this. Let's see what happens.

jafs 12 years, 1 month ago

I think it's clear there was negligence involved. The tanks are over 20 years old, the station reported a shortage, and KDHE apparently was unable to find anything. Not only that, but the tanks were tested Wednesday and the leak was undetected - how is that possible when a large amount of fuel was leaking?! If asbestos is right, then KDHE is not doing it's job well, and this should be corrected. Citizens rely on governmental organizations like KDHE and the EPA, FDA, etc. to keep us safe. That's their essential function, and we should make sure they do it well. Perhaps they should have been monitoring the tanks differently or more often since they were older, or perhaps they should have required their replacement. Business owners will not generally spend resources on upgrading equipment unless required to do so. I think a lawsuit is definitely in order. And, Presto didn't say they were willing to get to the bottom of anything, just that they were complying with KDHE's order. And, compmd, since the tanks were quite old, it should have been predictable that they might fail, and this should have been prevented. An entire five-apartment building was destroyed!

Todd 12 years, 1 month ago

One house being burned down does not a tragedy make. We have fire departments with quick responders, smoke alarms, stop-drop-and-roll, etc... No one way even hurt. Things are being blown out of proportion.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago


It depends on which "tank tightness test" they did. Isolated or continuous. On the part of KDHE, yes it is "gross negligence". In their history KDHE has taken the weasily path of least resistance every time. How about "Jumpin' Joe's" in Salina. Same thing, different town.

If it is "established scientifiic" methods you want, don't expect KDHE to use or employ them.

The environmental business IS my career and I know the subject matter and regs well.

How many times does KDHE have to screw up in Lawrence before someone wakes up.

Let's see the list is:

Cryptosporidium outbreak Inaccurate counting and evaluation of West Nile cases 19 truckloads of Contaminated soil on the banks of the river Virtually no asbestos envorcement Pencil whipped permits Toxic material releases at FMC and Farmland (RIP) 3 23rd Street USTs improperly removed Murphy Hall Asbestos dust up Apartments demoed on NH street for Parking garage (asbestos)

These are just the ones from memory! If I could go through the files I know I will find even more.

Multiply this times the number of cities in Kansas and the program failure becomes clear. So do the potential and real impacts on public health.

Sec. Bremby has not made any changes for the better or offered a better vision or leadership.

Kansans SHOULD be ANGRY. We are paying for services never delivered by KDHE.

adky 12 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps some of that gasoline could leak into my car's gas tank.

jafs 12 years, 1 month ago

Todd, no one was hurt this time. But they could easily have been. And it could have been worse. I don't know why people are so unwilling to demand a basic level of competence from government and business.

delta77 12 years, 1 month ago

Two questions.

1) What happened to that 150 gallons of "fresh" gasoline?

2) Can I have it?

gccs14r 12 years, 1 month ago

Are they sure it's coming from Presto? If the tanks test tight and they're getting 150 gpd anyway, maybe they should be looking elsewhere. If KDHE made me shut down and yank my tanks and they ended up being fine, I'd be pissed.

Raider 12 years, 1 month ago


you are exactly right. Presto has every right to be upset about the way this has been handled. The LJW has done everything but come right out and accuse them (Presto) of this leak. Even if/when Presto is cleared of this, all people are going to remember is the house fire and gas in the ground. This is going to kill their business at that store for quite some time.

They already have people stopping by daily and cussing out their clerks for burning down that rent house, and dumping fuel in the ground. One of the tenants even came by and cussed out the staff there.

This won't go away for them, even if they're cleared. The sad part is they are doing everything that is asked of them to comply with the state. It's the Lawrence community (Mark Bradford, and LJW) that is choosing to cruxify this store publicly.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

I have attended their "Kansas Environmental Conference" for the past several years. It consists of nothing but bragging about their "pencil whipping" water and air permits. Last year a guy dragged on for an hour about "windshield time" driving across Kansas.

They also hire the most inexperienced mental midgets they could possibly find. Their Asbestos program is a joke. The trust fund program is a joke. Most of the folks at KDHE are as arrogant as it gets.

You can test them too. Just try to get a KORA request on this site, just try. Records are open, it is an "emission to the waters, soil and air of Kansas. You have a right to know, but they will never let you find out.

This agency needs reform, or to be vacated and turn everything back to the feds.

Dr. Hammerschmidt needs to go. He has stayed 2 decades too long and exhibits very poor judgement on issues in the environment that affect Kansans. This guy is in with developers and the Livestock ass'n. and needs to be investigated.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

Where is old "Boog" on this issue, protecting KDHE or protecting the public?

Raider 12 years, 1 month ago

"It's a good thing that those gasoline fumes weren't escaping into the outdoor air (Or was it?)!! Can you imagine driving through that intersection and seeing some guy standing on the street corner waiting to cross the street.....and he lights up a ciggy.....and then the next thing you know he goes up in flames like "Burning Man"??!!"

If they were leaking into the air then Judy Keller and the Clean-Air Lawrence Society (or whatever the smoking nazis are called) would have petitioned Boog and the People's Council to ban gasoline sales in all public areas within the city limits.

glockenspiel 12 years, 1 month ago

ok, they can't conclusivly find a leak in these tanks knowing that there is a leak and people are wanting heads of KDHE and Presto owners? It sucks that people lost their homes, but insurance will cover their expenses, and hopefully a little more for the inconvenience. No need to get your panties in a wad.

I think this investigation has been run well, everyone is cooperative, Presto appears to have followed the rules, and you can't rip KDHE for not detecting the leaks because rigorous tests aren't detecting the leaks now. Some times &*%$ happens, do what you can and move on.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

Sorry Glockenspeil you know nothing of what you speak.

The laws are "proactive", meaning that the environmental and economic impact is greater than if a leak is detected. Stuff does happen, that is exactly why the laws require tank testing and constant inventory monitoring, to "catch" something when it happens to minimize the leak.

  1. The leak dectectors were not working. But there was a report of a leak of 2300 gallons. HMMM.

  2. When KDHE came in to verify, the leak detector was considered anomoly and "KDHE had given the tanks a clean bill of health in March". According to Mr. Wald. So the test was done wrong or KDHE did not do what was needed.

  3. These tests can be "fudged" to show no leak, the operator can do that, or the tests can be done wrong. Or there can be deliberate concealment.

800 gallons in a trench and gas leaking and vapors detected in basements around the area which is probably responsible for the fire. Yes, this IS a BIG DEAL!

If KDHE had given the tanks a clean bill of health in March, then they are on the til for this one.

Regardless The Leaking Tank owner IS responsible, and KDHE IS reaponsible for their portion of oversight which was not executed properly and they probably concealed their ineptitude on investigation. They should have found something in March, and covered it up.

glockenspiel 12 years, 1 month ago

Actually, I know enough to know that if the leak detectors aren't detecting a leak now when doing everything they can to find a leak, they probably wouldn't have discovered a leak during the march investigation.

The 2,300 gallon discrepency was originally determined to be a paperwork discrepancy. Either way, they had an investigation, they tested the tanks, they came out ok, which seems to be validated since the leaks cannot be detected now.

You can get off your KDHE consipracy theory and ackowledge that they did what they could to inspect the tanks, they were wrong, crap happens, that's why we have insurance.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

Glockenspeil you know someone or yourself must work for KDHE. There is nothing here that is defensible on their behalf. Obviously it was a problem if there is a 2300 gallon "paperwork" discepency. The tanks did have a leak upon later investigation stated Sharon Watson (KDHE liar and apologis) in this very article.

"But on Thursday, Watson said, "some indications were found that a couple areas may not have been completely sealed.""

That would have been discovered in a proper leak detect test. KDHE blew it, you are just biased to defend them. They have "blown it" multiple times in Lawrence and across the State and are never held accountable.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

There is no "consipiracy" here, KDHE is just impotent, inept, and incopetent.

End of Story.

nonimbyks 12 years, 1 month ago

Oh man, maybe we can get that crap that was dumped on the streets the other day and us it to absorb the fuel spill.

All the what if's and arm chair quarterback won't bring that awsome house back, but it can be rebuilt on the contanimanted foundation and we can continue living in our little tree hugging town with our dirty little secrets safely burried underground.

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

From the article:

"Wald said he was at a loss to explain how the leaks had eluded earlier monitoring and testing.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "If we're responsible for this, we're going to take care of it. We're going to do whatever KDHE tells us to do.""

You know, I have to say that actually increases my respect for the Presto folks. They did their bit, filed their forms, and did what they were told. They're not balking at taking on the financial responsibility for pulling the tanks (which he points out they are insured for) or screaming at the government for putting them in this position, just saying, "If this came about because of our station, we're going to shoulder our part of the responsibility."

The station shouldn't be held responsible for the fire. They did what they were supposed to do, and the people who are responsible for telling them whether or not they have a problem gave them the OK. If it turned out that the station had been negligent or deliberately hid evidence of leaks, I'd say it was in their best interests to start talking about settlements, but they don't look like they have a whole lot to be kicked for here.

However, it does look like at least one government agency dropped the ball, and that's not good.

tolawdjk 12 years, 1 month ago

You know ASBESTOS, if KDHE is that damn bad, file with EPA. Every rule in the SIP is a direct result of a federal regulation and the feds have final oversight of the state programs.

I mean, if you have so much compelling and overwhelming information it should be pretty damn easy. Otherwise, it sounds like you just have an axe to grind.

ASBESTOS 12 years, 1 month ago

YEs I do have an Axxe to Grind! BUt that is not the topic is it.

THe CDC had to visit KDHE twice to get them to do the right thing on reporting on West Nile.

The CDC had to straighten the KDHE out on the Crypto outbreak. On both of these evidence was compelling and KDHE ignored it.

Both of these inaction by KDHE caused direct health impact on 300-500 Kansans. The did not do their job

WIth the Gas station and other things, the EPA OIG investigations are coming and there is a major bullseye on effectiveness of programs.

Nothing will ever get addressed if one sits by silently.

You don't like it tolawdjk, tough.

Supporting KDHE on this gas leak is not deserving of a civil response. The real fun has not started yet. What will the masses say when they have to dig up 30 properties? I doubt they will be so willing to support or defend KDHE.

The point is that KDHE is "Delegated Responsibilities" and are not fulfilling them in the UST program. Whatever your SIP (out of the many) you are talking about is NOT a federal reg. You sound like a KDHE hack spouting initials that have no legal effect. A "Program" is not a "Law". KDHE should have looked at the tanks a little better.

The real question you should be asking (other than the axxe to grind statement) is:

Are the rest of the USTs and oversight of USTs in the State of Kansas in the same level of disarray?

That is the concern, and it goes beyond the CIty of Lawrence. We have paid the guys in KDHE already to do this job, and it obviously not working very well.

So a little SIP reference does not make a very good defense of KDHE.

They all need to be fired and start over. The leadership and management in KDHE sucks totaly.

Kelly Powell 12 years, 1 month ago

Hey raider, I normally hate all the litigation that goes on today....But we are not talking about a cup of coffee burning someones winky, we are talking about a incident that could of resulted in the entire block going up in flames. if i was your neighbor and i allowed 150plus gallons of gas to seep from my property to yours and it blew your house up, I bet you would want compensaton....Even your insurance co. is using litigation to get my insurance to pay what they owe.....Even if your hands are not dirtied by suing personally, somebody is.

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