Archive for Friday, May 12, 2006

Leak fuels neighbors’ fears

Residents worry about effects of seeping gasoline

May 12, 2006


Two doors down from a very big hole in the ground, Darwin and Susan Eakins were unhappy Thursday.

The hole was being dug to remove soil where gasoline tanks at Presto Phillips 66 gas station, Ninth and Louisiana streets, are believed to have leaked - contaminating two city blocks and sparking an April 30 house fire.

"It's a big, old mess," Susan Eakins said. "We're not happy."

Darwin Eakins said workers had determined the gasoline leak had spread to soil 16 feet under the yard of his 100-year-old Louisiana Street home, where he and his wife have lived for 30 years.

"What it does to the value of your house : concerns me a lot," he said. If "I wanted to sell the house, I'd be in a hell of a bind."

Many nearby residents were concerned Thursday, the day after officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment revealed the extent of the area affected by the leak.

"One of my neighbors said, 'Watch to see if your plants die,'" said Theresa Shetler Logan, who lives in the 800 block of Louisiana. "That doesn't make me feel very good."

When leaked gasoline entered the basement of 838 La. on April 30, the furnace ignited a fire that destroyed the home, which contained five apartments.

The homeowners, Lelon Capps and Kandis Capps Taylor, along with Curtis Johnson, a tenant in the destroyed home, filed a petition in Douglas County District Court seeking damages against the owners of the Presto gas station, Presta Oil Inc.

State workers have responded to the situation by removing the tanks and surrounding soil, creating a cavernous hole more than 15 feet deep along one of Lawrence's busier thoroughfares.

"Vapor extraction systems" to help vent gas fumes from below ground were being installed on nearby properties, officials said.

A backhoe removes contaminated soil at the Presto Phillips 66 site, 602 W. Ninth St. The underground gas tanks, which leaked fuel that helped spark a house fire, were removed earlier this week. The HCS Petroleum worker at right refused to be identified Thursday at the site.

A backhoe removes contaminated soil at the Presto Phillips 66 site, 602 W. Ninth St. The underground gas tanks, which leaked fuel that helped spark a house fire, were removed earlier this week. The HCS Petroleum worker at right refused to be identified Thursday at the site.

Gasoline fumes have been found at just one property, officials said: the law offices of Petefish, Immel and Heeb. Lawyers there were unavailable for comment.

"We're just moving forward with our recovery efforts," said Dan Kellerman, an incident manager for KDHE. "I'd say you'll see quite a bit of activity here for another week, as far as the manpower we have at the site."

The Presto leak, while large, may not be unusual. The Environmental Protection Agency says more than 150,000 leaking underground storage tanks need cleaning up across the nation. EPA officials couldn't comment Thursday on how many of those sites are in Douglas County.

Todd Brendmoen, a Presto representative, did not return a call for comment.

Darwin Eakins on Thursday said he'd called government agencies, trying to get Presto shut down. His neighbors are worried the gasoline contaminating their properties could take as much as a decade to evaporate.

"Not a hell of a lot you can do," he said. "Just give it time."


Richard Heckler 11 years, 8 months ago

As someone mentioned isn't it odd that so many gallons of gas could not be accounted for on the books? Do proprietors overlook this amount of money being lost and not wonder where the gasoline went?

spongebob 11 years, 8 months ago

"Gasoline fumes have been found at just one property, officials said: the law offices of Petefish, Immel and Heeb. Lawyers there were unavailable for comment."

Why does that not seem strange to me?

Merrill - I agree, however it could have been a very slow leak. I'm sure that the companies have to build in some "wiggle room" that might have hidden the leak if it was slow enough?

David Roberts 11 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if this other fire at 820 Ohio in Feb 2005 is related?

"...He discovered flames and thick smoke creeping from the basement into the kitchen and alerted housemate Kilpatrick"

pissedinlawrence 11 years, 8 months ago

ok, so why is this guy trying to shut presto down? its not like they purposely leaked hundreds and hundreds dollars worth of gas. that guy needs to find something else to complain about.

junco_partner 11 years, 8 months ago

Is there a pattern starting here? Less than a year ago tanks at a filling station near 6th and Kasold were dislodged from their underground location and I beleive that station is still closed. I was filling up at a station on 23rd street between Naismith and Lousiana earlier this week and I have real concrns about the saftey of that stations tanks. If I were a city/county/state official I would be looking into all the stations in Lawrence. I doubt it happens though, its going to take someone dying or getting seriously injured.

Rossp 11 years, 8 months ago

S**t Happens. Life goes on. Everyone just wants $$$ $$$$ $$$$$$$$........Even it everyone lived far away in the country they would still be finding a way to complain and get more $$$$$.....

jafs 11 years, 8 months ago

Why are people so unwilling to hold businesses and government accountable? If Presto was negligent in maintaining their underground tanks, then they are certainly responsible for the leaks. If KDHE was negligent in inspecting them and requiring them to be maintained/upgrading, then they are responsible. If, as I suspect, they both could/should have done better, then they should both be held responsible. How would you like to live with gasoline fumes under your house that take a decade to evaporate?

Confrontation 11 years, 8 months ago

Anyone here watch Saturday Night Live?

Debbie Downer says, "Watch to see if your plants die.'"

Raider 11 years, 8 months ago

jafs, holding someone accountable and punishing them are two different things. Yes, both Presto and KDHE should be held accountable for the damage caused, and they should have to pay for the cleanup and repair.

The problem I have are these greedy lawyers wanting to get involved (suits already filed), and others who want to take the company for millions, and potential put them out of business.

There is a mentality in this country that if something happens to you, then in addition to the responsible party paying for the damage that you're also entitled to everything that person/company owns. It's nothing but sheer greed.

The landlord should have the house rebuilt, the tenants should be re-paid for their lost personal property, and the people with contaminated soil should be compensated to have it cleaned up. There should be nothing awarded for "psychological damage" or emotional trauma.

Dani Davey 11 years, 8 months ago

Raider - What if the loss of everything they own, including the death of pets, leads to a diagosis of clinical depression, requiring pills, therapy, or both. Should the victims be compensated for their therapy expenses and possible lost wages? Or is that just greedy because it's an emotional thing?

Further, it's not a greed thing to seek punitive damages, it's a punishment and deterence thing. If gas stations see that this one has to pay out big money for their screw up, then I bet others are a lot more likely to fork up the funds to get their tanks adaquately tested now rather than risk paying millions later.

Raider 11 years, 8 months ago

They should be repsonsible for their own emotions, and if they have emotional issues they shouldn't have anyone else pay for it. It's their problem and they should be able to handle it on their own. Sometimes life throws things at us that's pretty difficult. The strong ones are the ones who deal with it and get on with their lives. The weak ones seek therapy and take pills.

Are punitive damages large enough to bankrupt someone really neccessary? It's pure greed to sue someone for everything they're worth. Unfortunatley, the sheister lawyers are already perched like vultures ready to pick the bones clean.

short_one 11 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Raider on this one and I am sure I'll get blasted--I am sick and tired of people hiding behind "clinical depression" when they are just whiners. Get over it. There are many many people out there in the world who have a bonafide depression--chemical imbalance, victims of abuse, whatever--and these people deserve help but clinical depression caused by some "tragedy" like their house burning down is a line of crap. Get over it. Bad things happen in life--it is called "life." People die, pets die, things get destroyed and you just need to get on with your life.

gphawk89 11 years, 8 months ago

No it IS a greed thing. Do you think plaintiffs and lawyers in this case care at all if other gas stations are going to look at this situation and be mofe careful about testing their tanks? I don't. This is about an opportunity to make lots of easy money, nothing more.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

"EPA officials couldn't comment Thursday on how many of those sites are in Douglas County."

Why in the world could EPA (Region 7) not be able to comment on the number of leaking underground storage tank and leaking sotrage tank sites?

THAT is outrageous. IT is a requirement that they notify us and inform the public. Again they coillect this information to let us know of hazards and to protect us, not to make pretty graphs. This information is considered to be open records, but it is a REQUIREMENT of RCRA federal law that an inventory of leaking USTs and ASTs are known and what the status is. There is an EPA OIG report on Kansas, Iowa, Penn, and NY programs.

One guy on another thread stated KDHE had one of the better programs. According to the OIG report that is not true.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

From the OIG report


We reported that oversight and enforcement could be improved for some sites which posed a significant threat to human health or the environment and that data bases were inaccurate and not effectively used.

Insufficient Oversight on Some LUST Sites

We selected a judgmental sample of 24 sites which were reported as having contaminated ground water and found that 6 sites did not have adequate oversight of responsible party remediation. Groundwater contamination, which is an indication of a serious condition, was discovered several years earlier at those sites and sufficient remediation activities had not been performed.

For example, the Home Oil site was one of the six sites with significant contamination and was an example where oversight of responsible party remediation needs to be improved.

The State was aware of petroleum contamination at this site for 12 years, yet the contamination remained uncorrected. During July 1983, the district office verified the existence of petroleum contamination in a garden well at a private home. The staff suspected that the Home Oil Service Station's underground storage tanks, located about a half block away, were the source of the release. However, the district office waited until March of 1990 to send a corrective action letter to the owner and operator of the service station. The letter requested a site assessment to identify the size of the ground water contamination plume and to develop and implement a remedial plan. The letter did not establish deadlines for the requested remedial activities.

The district office did not followup on the site until February 1995 when it took ground water samples at the service station. The samples confirmed that a LUST existed at the site, showing a level of 13,080 parts per billion for the primary gasoline constituents of benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (BTEX). Staff stated that the site was considered a "hot" site because of the very high BTEX level. The site was recently assigned a priority ranking of 129 (very high) because it was near a public water supply and posed a significant threat to the water.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

From OIG report

Enforcement was not Effective

Kansas did not effectively pursue enforcement of responsible party corrective actions for some LUST sites. As a result, Kansas could not be sure that the most significantly contaminated sites were cleaned-up timely.

As of the end of fiscal 1994, Kansas had issued administrative orders to responsible parties for 11 sites. We reviewed administrative orders and site files for 6 of the 11 sites and interviewed district office personnel to determine if the State effectively pursued enforcement of the responsible parties' corrective actions.

Kansas had effectively pursued enforcement for two of the six sites but had not pursued enforcement for the other four sites. At one site, the State did not pursue enforcement actions after the responsible party refused to accept an administrative order. At two other sites, the administrative order, which directed remediation activities for both sites, was dismissed because there may have been additional responsible parties for the contamination. However, as of March 1995, additional responsible parties had not been identified and clean-up activities had not been initiated.

As an example of some sites where enforcement was not effectively pursued, the district office confirmed that a LUST existed at the St. Mary's Oil site during November 1990. A soil sample indicated that the release had caused significant petroleum contamination. Sample results showed a total hydrocarbons level of 2,000 parts per million. The State requires remediation when the total petroleum hydrocarbons level in the soil exceeds 100 parts per million.

An administrative order was issued to the responsible party during March 1991 because the responsible party had refused to conduct a site investigation to identify the extent of contamination at the site. The order directed the responsible party to perform a site investigation, prepare a remediation plan, and implement the plan. The order also established a schedule for the directed activities.

Four years later (March 1995) the responsible party had not complied with the order and the district office had not taken any additional followup actions. The State recently assigned a priority ranking of 105 which means the site posed a significant risk to human health and the environment.

Dani Davey 11 years, 8 months ago

I don't disagree with any of you that terrible things happen in life and you have to deal with it. My point was simply that you can put a dollar value on emotional experiences. And just to play devils advocate, what if it's not depression, what if it's post traumatic stress disorder. These people rushed to get out of a burning house, and then watched an explosion big enough to through firefighters back to the street.

And no one has said anything about punitive damages great enough to bankrupt a company. I haven't seen the Petition but nothing that I've read or heard gives me any reason to suspect anyone is asking for enough to bankrupt Presto (which would be a mighty sum of cash).

And as someone who is about to embark on three years of legal education, I'm amazed at how low your opinion of lawyers are. Let me remind you all that there is no evidence of any "sheisters" lurking, for all we know the Plaintiffs approached the attorney who filed the Petition. I, for one, haven't seen any vultures in the sky over 9th and Louisiana.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

two things move gas stations near city commission homes see how well they are maitained and checked for leaks. and is tom cruise in here talking I swear it is him...

short_one 11 years, 8 months ago

Dani, I'll hold back from too many comments relating to why people hold low opinions of lawyers (!!) but suffice to say, your spelling needs a bit of work or the professors will tear you up. Unless, of course you really meant that an explosion was big enough to through a firefighter--would that mean the flames went through the firefighter. At any rate, I do envy your naivete... how refreshing. I have never met anyone prouder of their education than lawyers--sort of like they feel the need to prove to everyone how smart they really are. . .

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

just kidding I think people should be compensated for property lose and have some help with relocation not to sure on emotional damage many people suffer losses like this but do not claim to be traumatized for life but some people truely can not handle trauma like others so I would say a professinal sould decide that point not the public. But depression is not a sign of weekness, and wanting help as in thearaphy is not weak it just means you need help that is all. Help is not a dirty word try it some time.

TeamPollution 11 years, 8 months ago

Keep your shirt on there, ASBESTOS. The article only stated that EPA could not comment on how many leaking USTs in Douglas County need to be cleaned up, not that they weren't keeping records.

The KDHE website lists all known leaking UST and AST sites in Kansas as well as all permitted ASTs and USTs by district... with the emphasis on "known." I believe that Presto here falls into the previously unknown category so take the KDHE tracking spreadsheet with a grain of salt.

A brief look at the spreadsheet seems to indicate a total of 233 known leaking tank facilities in Douglas county; 9 of those are listed as "active," 9 are listed as "hold," 30 are listed as "monitoring," and the rest are listed as closed.

See... that wasn't so hard now was it? The information is right there available for the public at any time. The accuracy of that information is another point of discussion entirely.

Anyway, adjacent property owners impacted by this release should be compensated. The money for said compensation will mostly come from the facility's insurance. If and when that money is exhausted, you move on to the current owners and operators. If and when that money is exhausted, you move on to the previous owners and operators... wash, rinse, repeat.

The state can be sued... the likelihood of success of such a suit is questionable but it could be done.

And as far as insurance goes, Kansas is a self-insured governmental entity... any money paid by the state in a lawsuit is coming straight from the taxpayers.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

Easy there TeamPllution,

Did you read the EPA OIG report? Again, you only see what you want to see, and you are not reasonable.

The Report states that KDHE does a very poor job of oversight and enforcement.

So how do we put any stock or faith on KDHE derived numbers.

Now do you see how hard it is? You need some professional guidance. I would take everything that KDHE produces with a grain of salt.

If this is how they perform with things everyday as USTs, are they doing the same thing on say Sunflower, and delisting if off of NPL? Maybe EPA should list and take it back over, based on KDHE's performance with USTs in Lawrence, KS.

How much more pollution will KDHE allow? Is a polluted Douglas county enough to get action, or do we need increased cancer rates.

See TeamPollution, you do not see the "big picture", as it is beyond your comprehension and agenda.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

BTW how come you get a "brief look at the spread sheet" so quick, you work for KDHE don't you. It takes the average person a KORA request to do that.

That sure was quick for you, and you outed yourself.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

I see now. I haven't done a UST or Phase I in a couple of years. They used to not have that on site. Pretty neat, but the "Closed" ones bother me a great deal. It was a "Closed" site where the City of Lawrence parked all that contaminate soil by the river under KDHE supervision. It is still listed as closed instead of monitoring.

That is the problem with sloppy enforcement and oversight.

TeamPollution 11 years, 8 months ago

ASBESTOS, my comments have nothing to do with the OIG report you quoted and I don't understand why you would conect the two.

I also clearly stated that the leaking UST/AST list is available on the KDHE web site for public review at any time. How is that insider information? It requires no KORA. Outed? Give me a break!

You need to chill out and pay a little more attention to what is being said rather than jumping to conclusions.

Harry_Manback 11 years, 8 months ago


A lawyer should be proud of their profession. The education required is quite difficult and not just anyone can be a lawyer.

But to stay on topic, I'll have to remember to never live next to a gas station!

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

If you can't see it TeamPollution there ain't enough crayons in the box to explain it.

AND yu didn't read my post stating that I made a mistake.

So who is the biased one that cannot admit a mistake nor do you read what others have to say.

Yiou are the one that needs to pay attention.

If you cannot draw a line of comprehension about the EPA OIG report and KDHE files, your consulting on environmental issues is moot and suspect, and you do not possess the capability to validate data.

THAT is what this is about. As for jusming to conclusions, you seem to do a lot of that as well.

It is the weekend later all.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

Sorry came back. I just remember having thius discussion about 2-3 years ago. There was this short guy that was a trainer for META. He put together a study with supporting documents and emailed it to just about everybody that would listen. He even started up a group on yahoo and it is still there.

it is:

If you think I am tough on KDHE you need to listen to this guy and he nailed it 2 years ago. I think he also hand delivered it to the GOvernor and the Secretary of KDHE and some program heads, as well as making the rounds of the Environmental Consultants in Lawrence and statewide. In the group above the study is short but straightforward and is in the FILES section.

KDHE was warned about "Program Failure" and "Conflict of INterest", and the problem of operating as a consultant and regulator over 3 years ago, and nobody listened to the man.

TeamPollution 11 years, 8 months ago

Blather on, ASBESTOS... blather on.

I think it is too early to be making assumptions about motivations in this law suit. True, one possible explanation is greed. But the attorney involved may have filed the lawsuit as a way to leverage a faster settlement with the gas station and they may actually have no intention of pursuing the matter further. Maybe the attorney has come into possession of some information that is not public knowledge and may warrant the filing of the suit. Only time will tell.

vinyl_chloride 11 years, 8 months ago

Hey Asbestos ! ! Are you friable or non-friable asbestos?

toughangel41 11 years, 8 months ago

"Get over it. Bad things happen in life--it is called "life." People die, pets die, things get destroyed and you just need to get on with your life"

Easier said than done. If your child died you wouldn't be talking like that. Sorry no offense but that remark can be hurtful to some.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 8 months ago

TO vinyl_chloride,

Ala Patsy Cline,

" pieces........whenever you are near......"

Commenting has been disabled for this item.