Archive for Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Leaked fuel still a concern

Gasoline cleanup to take a year

May 24, 2006


Watch out for rain.

Spokesmen for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Tuesday that the agency had pumped about 2,000 gallons of gasoline from the ground near the Presto Phillips 66 gas station, 602 W. Ninth St., following a house fire in late April fueled by gasoline that leaked from one of the station's underground tanks.

But KDHE officials said they still had concerns that remaining gasoline beneath the ground could again begin to enter homes in the Old West Lawrence neighborhood during a heavy rain.

"If we get a large rainfall, people should keep an eye on their basements," said Gary Blackburn, director of the bureau of environmental remediation for KDHE. "We do want to keep the water levels well below the basements. We are being very cautious about that."

Fire investigators think the blaze that destroyed a five-apartment house at 838 La. was fueled by gasoline that had migrated through the groundwater from a leaking underground tank at the Presto station. The gas, investigators concluded, was sucked up through a sump pump in the house and ignited by a spark from the pump or a pilot light on the furnace or hot water heater.

Watching closely

Blackburn said it was difficult to say how much rainfall would create concern. He said KDHE workers would be on site during the next rain to monitor groundwater levels. The department will be prepared to bring in portable pump trucks to keep water levels low. Vapor alarms also have been installed in eight houses in the immediate area. The department has plans to install four more.

The warning got the attention of neighbors.

Brian Barney hooks up a hose that will deliver 8,000 gallons of gas to the Presto Phillips 66 gas station, 602 W. Ninth St. Barney worked Tuesday at the station, which is expected to reopen in about two weeks. It has been closed since an April 30 fire at a nearby house.

Brian Barney hooks up a hose that will deliver 8,000 gallons of gas to the Presto Phillips 66 gas station, 602 W. Ninth St. Barney worked Tuesday at the station, which is expected to reopen in about two weeks. It has been closed since an April 30 fire at a nearby house.

"The first time I hear thunder, I'll thank God that I'm not living there yet," said Dan Schriner, who is in the process of building a new home in the 800 block of Ohio Street.

But KDHE gave neighbors some news to be encouraged about. Blackburn said the department was optimistic it could remove the majority of the gasoline from the ground in about two months and that all of it could be removed in about a year.

The removal, though, will require construction of a pump station and filtering operation on the site of the apartment house that was destroyed.

"If it really is only a year and they can assure us that it is all cleaned up, that is really pretty good," Schriner said. "They came to the table with a plan today, and that is what I wanted to hear."

Gas tank had hole

The pump and filtering facility will require the construction of about a 10- by 20-foot temporary building. Blackburn said he couldn't assure residents the facility wouldn't create noise or odor.

"We hope that it will not produce anything they'll notice," Blackburn said. "We have told the neighborhood that we will make it as quiet as possible. I can ensure them that it will be quieter than all the large trucks that are going in and out of there right now."

Blackburn also provided several other findings from the department's investigation. They included:

¢ KDHE found a small hole in one of Presto's three underground tanks. Blackburn said the hole was so small it was difficult to detect through pressure tests performed on the tank after the fire.

¢ It has not been determined whether a fine will be levied against Presto. Blackburn said the department was in discussions with the store's management team, but he said KDHE thus far had not found evidence the store violated any state or federal regulations.

¢ The state estimates it will spend about $300,000 to clean up the site and surrounding neighborhood. The state is using money from a special fund created to pay for groundwater cleanup projects. The fund is financed by a 1-cent-per-gallon tax on all state gasoline sales. None of the $300,000 will be used by Presto to replace its tanks. But the money will be used to pay costs associated with removal of contaminated soil from the site. Blackburn said about 3,400 tons of soil had been removed and hauled to Hamm Landfill in Jefferson County.

¢ The gas station is expected to reopen in about two weeks, said Presto vice president Doug Wald. Blackburn said the state wanted the gas station to move ahead quickly because paving the site will reduce the chance that rainwater could cause remaining gasoline to begin moving again beneath the surface.


lawrence_citizen 11 years, 11 months ago

"KDHE found a small hole in one of Presto's three underground tanks. Blackburn said the hole was so small it was difficult to detect through pressure tests performed on the tank after the fire"

This doesn't give me much confidence in their pressure tests if that small of a hole can leak out so much fuel.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

That is the point citizen. There is not much conficdence. Neither is "watch out when it rains." THIS is the suggestion of our vaunted Department of Environment? Time to clean house, and now before someone really get hurt.

I think there should be some sort of punishment for KDHE as well. They dropped the ball and they also started to cover it up with BS. If people here were not posting and sharing information, they would have successfully covered this up.

$300,000, I doubt it will cover it all.

They did not tell you something again, if your property has been affected, YOU have the right to accept or deny certian "levels" and they (KDHE) were supposed to tell you that. Seems they passed up on full disclosure of what the trust fund was meant to do federally and how the state of Kansas pares it down.

Full disclosure means just that. And we have not gotten that yet.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

"Ron Hammerschmidt, director of environment for KDHE, said his department would use the Lawrence incident as a learning opportunity.

"I can tell you that we will sit down internally and see if there needs to be any improvements made to the regulations," Hammerschmidt said."

Atta BOY RONNIE! Why the heck did you not listen to the EPA over a decade ago with the OIG investigation? You guys did nothing! Need to sit down and discuss this internally? I would guess. You obviously don't listen to any of the Environmental Professionals in the State. We have been saying that for years. OH, and BTW why don't you tell us about all the ORPHAn sites?

2300 gallons is 3 times more than their monthly release allowance under not STATE law, but RCRA regulation. AGAIN these State yahoos refer to thier state regulation and ingnore the federal regulation requirements.

This would not happen if the KDHE and Hammerschmidt did not have a acromonious relationship with EPA. He has fought them the whole time he has been director. THis guy has to go, and if Gary is going to ba an apologist, he should go now. Gary is a good man, but it is time for him to decide what side he is on and what his function is, ie grow a backbone.

GardenMomma 11 years, 11 months ago

I don't see how a hole in your storage tank isn't a federal or state violation. Granted it was a small hole and was difficult to detect, but it must have been there a long time to leak that much out. Or bigger than reported.

The gasoline has spread an incredible distance! Two whole blocks. How long has it been leaking? What size is the "small" hole? Please define small. A pin prick? A couple of millimeters? An inch?

pundit 11 years, 11 months ago

I want to hear more from ASBESTOS on the differences in federal law relative to state regs...

jafs 11 years, 11 months ago

Obviously someone should take responsibility for this - either the gas station or KDHE or both of them. Has anyone else noticed that the cleanup will be paid for by a gasoline tax? This means that you and I are paying for their errors.

naturalist 11 years, 11 months ago

Notice that the map does not include the 820 Ohio address where the other house burned down last year, a fire which also started in the basement. Does anyone know if the fire investigators ever determined the cause of that fire?

armyguy 11 years, 11 months ago

I think that the testing is very flawed, my house natural gas lines had to be tested after sitting empty for 6 months. There was a pressure guage at one end and a air bubble thing on the incoming line with a presure guage, the air was put into at it had to stay at that pressure for about a hour. That isn't hard to do even with a large tank. I think I could have put the test system together for less than $200.00

I think if I owned a gas station, I would put together something like that.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

First, The EPA OIG did an audit in 1996 of 3 or 4 states on their petroleum storage tank programs. It found that Kansas in particular was very backlogged to the tund of about 3-4000 sites. It aslo state that KDHE was very poor at enforcement and regulation of the tank program. Direct examples in the OIG report was KDHE had "Consent Order" (which they like to talk about) with a violator in which the violator (polluter) did nothing and KDHE did not take forward action. KDHE states they like to :work with the regulated community" I am all for that, those that are trying to comply. Those that signed consent decrees and orders and then do not follow the orders should be hammered. KDHE does not do that. they "Partner with polluters".

Additionally. The State law comes from federal law mandates. THe State law must be at least as stringent as federal law, period. SOme parts of the various laws Kansas has are more stringent, most of the laws and portions of the laws are not. SO they must follow the Federal mandate, envn though the Kansas Legislature passed a less stringent law. The specifics on the law are very clear with the issue of a release and how to proceed in line with the RCRA UST regulation (on which the Kansas law is based). There about 9 different responses. The tank in question reported a 2300 gallon leak, 3 time the monthly allowance. At that point there needed to be invasive invesitgation, NOT TANK TIGHTNESS TESTING? you already have a leak confirmed with inventory reconcilliation that did not reconcile, and was 3 times the monthly allowance.


The burning houses igniting in basements should have been the indicator. In Gary Blackburn's early career, he was in a video showing evaluation of this very condition with him and about 4 other state regulators from other states of a gas tank leak and migrating gasoline vapors. Here it is 20 years later and he apparently forgot or lost his passion.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

The RCRA release detection

release response

State Program Requirements:

40 CFR Part 281

There is a table that shows Kansas, and when you click on Kansas, you start reading and there are a lot of "in so far as" for the "approval". If you look at other states, it simply states that the program is in compliance and is at least as stringent.

So the Kansas law is in compliance "in so far as" certian passages, and the rest must follow the federal law. Unfortunately too many at KDHE thinks that State Law trumps Federal, it is clearly the other way around.

If the program works so well why is KDHE:

"Now officials say some of the loss was attributed to a small hole in one of the three tanks. Ron Hammerschmidt, director of environment for KDHE, said his department would use the Lawrence incident as a learning opportunity.

"I can tell you that we will sit down internally and see if there needs to be any improvements made to the regulations," Hammerschmidt said."

Comply with the Federal regulations or give the program back to the feds and let them protect Kansans and their property. But for gosh sake, quite screwing around and making mistakes; all the while covering them up AND acting like you have all the answers.

Ya screwed up! Ya got caught! Take your medicine and move on and FIX THE DARN PROBLEM!

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

Learning experience? You have had 2 decades! NOW you are going to sit down and "internally" and see if there needs to be any improvements?

Here is a BIG HINT KDHE yahoos:


There is a lot of great environmental profesional right here in Lawrence. There are many more throughout the state of Kansas, and others in many states practicing everyday. It is so funny that KDHE made fun of the Texas Trust fund that went broke, but they have this degree of program failure and still think they are cream of the crop.

Remember, this is one we know about. It took a house exploding and several others possibly burned because.

WHAT ABOUT THE 4000 other sites and the ORPHAN sites too!!


This is what happens when you waste resources trying to be a consultant and a regulator at the same time. You barely have enough money for one and by doing both there is an inherent conflict of interest.

Try getting a client in compliance with environmental laws when you aren't the regulator, it is a little more complicated, because you cannot and are not allowed shortcuts or "mistakes" which in your (KDHE) case goes ignored or buried.

Your Departmental credibility is shot. The public has seen you for what you really are, and are not impressed.

Something the Environmental Business Community has known for decades.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago


Subpart D - 281.40-281.43 - "Adequate Enforcement of Compliance"

Requirements for Public Participation

"Any state administering program must provide for public participation in the state enforcement process by providing any one of the following 3 options:

a) Authority that allows intervention analogous to Federal Rule 24 a 2 and assurance by the appropriate state enforcement agency that it will not oppose intervention under the state analouge rule 24 a 2 on the gound that the applicants interest is adequately represented by the state."


"b) Authority that allows intervention as of right in any civil action to obtain the remedies specified in 281.41 by any citizen having an interest that is or may be affected: or

c) assurance by the appropriate state agency that:

1) It will provide notice and opportunity for public comment on all proposed settlements of civil enforcement actions (except where immediate action is necessary to adequately protect human health and the environment; 2) It will investigate and provideresponses to citizens complaints about violations; and 3) it will not oppose citizen intervention when permissive intervention is allowed by statute, rule, or regulation."

SO you see, KDHE does have to make everything CRYSTAL CLEAR so we can find out if they have in fact screwed up and explain their actions and let records be open for viewing and allow intervention if we find that they are ARE screwing up.

Again, third party oversight is NOT allowed when the regulator is the consultant and the disperser of funding.

See the problem yet.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

under 40 CFR 281 the RCRA UST (a) Owners or operators of petroleum underground storage tanks must demonstrate financial responsibility for taking corrective action and for COMPENSATING THIRD PARTIES FOR BODILY INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGES caused by accidental releases arising from the operation of [etroleum underground storage tanks in at least the following occurance ammounts ....

10,000 galons a month $1,000,000. all others $500,000.

BTW, under fed regs, this tank was supposed to be upgraded to the leak detection by December 22, 1998 or closed by the federal closure requirements. It was another problem that KDHE was covering up. This is in 281.41. Inventory reconcilliation cannot be used on a 1978 tank withour leak detection equipment at the base of tank etc.


GardenMomma 11 years, 11 months ago

There's a monthly allowance for tank leakage? Why is that? Why would any leakage be allowed? Isn't that bad for the environment?

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

Thermal expansion of a volatile organic chemical, the tank changing dimension slightly are some of the reasonings. If it happens I do not know.

However, the "allowance" may not be a leak, it may be a "dection limit" application for compliance. The tanks are measured with a stick usually, and a big round cylinder of metal with volatile organic liquid inside all change shape and therefore the amount when the stick measurement is made. It is a "cost" Benefit equation, how much spending is needed to get compliance. That is why this isa big deal.

If the minimal acceptable level of detection of leak and release technology is to be used, then strict compliance with the regulations using those processes must be draconian in application. So you can still use a stick to measure because it is cheaper than putting a double wall tank with between the walls sampling ports, but if you get a problem with reconciliation using a stick, you default to a more aggressive approack toward investigation.

KDHE allowed the use of low end technology, and also held the accountability of the pertoleum retailers at a minimum as well. You can' t have it both ways. It is either cheap or easy, but not cheap and easy.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

They are supposed to tell us what they are doing with the wastes for 2 reasons:

1) It is in the Trust fund legislatino both federal and state that expenditures must be explained and described. There is a massive difference of "landfarming" the soil which is spreading it out 4-6 inches and "volatizing" the gasoline in the soil to the air (which I always thought was an emisssion BTW) and the soil needs tended, it is less of a cost, or out right disposal which is burying it, or there is thermal treatment and extraction which are more expensive still. Yes just burying the soil would not make much sense and I hope these keystoners didn't do that, but the did the very same thing before in Lawrence by parking 17 turucloads of contaminated soil to be landfarmed by the boat ramp on the Kaw.

KDHE makes contractors justify and explain all their charges, shouldn't KDHE do the same thing?

2) It is a requred disclosure under the HAZWA regulations that the waste and treatment must be sdisclosed, especially when the money is public funding.

Again these guys (KDHE) have a helluva of a lot of explaining to do yet, and the fact they did not catch this leak, did not recognise it when it happened, and responded as slow as molasses. Once they responded, true they ripped it up and got after it, but the rest of the story is just sickening.

As I adked before, KDHE what was a 1978 tank doing in the ground without leak detection after Dec. 22, 1998? Additionally, how many more of these lovelies do we have? How many more of the 4-6000 known and unknown tanks are doing this? How many of the slow responses to cleanup (about 3000 tank sites) according to the EPA OIG report could be doing the same thing.

Clean it UP KDHE, Literally and figuratively!

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

Ronnie Hammerschmidt, PLEASE RESIGN! We need to have new leadership in DOE after your particular brand of "leadership", which was nothing more than arguing and promoting animus with the EPA.

Again, PLEASE RESIGN! You have done far too much damage to the State of Kansas in terms of money spent and damage to the environment. THank you for keeping 2 sites off the NPL listing and flushing the money through the department rather than spending the money on cleanup. Thank you for favoring criminal developers who are ignoring environmental safety and health rules. ANd thanks again for giving cities and muncipalities a pass on their environmental responsibilities.

You have been a winner, NOT!

ASBESTOS 11 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, it is Dr. Ronald Hannerschmidt, Isuppose professional aquaintences call him "Dr.", friends call him "Ron", and I call him "Ronnie".

IF this yahoo wants me to call him "Doctor" out of respect for his good judgement and intellect, forget it. His judgement and iltellect has taken environmental, health, and safety affairs in Kansas in the wrong sicne he has been Director.

JUst because someone attains a degree or other "Alphabets" after their name does not guarntee good judgement, intellect, or proper behavior. We have this problem because of the way the KDHE DOE goes about its business, and that is at the feet of Ronnie. HE has gotta go and as quickly as possible.

He is the guy that came up with this no third party process we have in the environmental sector in Kansas. DOE acts as a regulator that has son stomach or cahones for enforcement, so they get grants, and "partner with polluters', and NEVER hold anyone responsible. Secondly, they also have to "review and approve" all the goings on with the environmental businesses that clean up the mess that some other polluter has caused. Ask anyone in the EH&S business in Kansas and they will tell you flat out, the Environmental business that clean up messes are regulated and suffer more enforcement action than the polluters whom are supposed to be regulated, fined, etc. Lastly, They hold the purse strings. In my opinion and others in the environmental sector the State of Kansas practices "price fixing" in the VPP and other programs where the funding goes through the State DOE.

So they regulate (only those cleaning the mess up), act as a consultant, then control the payment of funds. Well it is easy to "control" things when you have the final say on every issue, but this is the definition of CONFLICT OF INTEREST. This is what the "leadership" of KDHE has brought us. This process was implemented by Ronnie's department. He just is not quite as brilliant as you would are lead to believe, Dr. or no. (That was funny)

The result is that things are not done as they should be, there is no oversight, and you will get no answers or indication of how wrong things are until say for instance a house blows up. Yeah they are protecting us, and have great concern for us. NO, they have concern for the agency, and currently the agency is more interested in saving its own bacon than protecting the prople of the state of Kansas.

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