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.
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.
"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.
More about the leak
- 6News video: Clean-up of gasoline leak continues (05-23-06)
- Station monitoring procedures to be reviewed (05-24-06)
- Interactive Map: Local Underground Storage Tanks
- Leak fuels neighbors' fears (05-12-06)
- Gasoline may have leaked farther than thought, KDHE says (05-11-06)
- 6News video: Lawsuit filed against gas station owners (05-10-06)
- Presto's underground tanks are removed (05-09-06)
- Fire chief: Leak fix will take awhile (05-06-06)
- Chat with Lawrence Fire Chief Mark Bradford (05-05-06)
- Gas station ordered to remove tanks (05-05-06)