Archive for Thursday, May 25, 2006

Remedial action

Both the Lawrence area contaminated by leaking gasoline and the laws that allowed the leak to go undetected are in need of remedial action.

May 25, 2006


It's comforting that the state has an aggressive and seemingly comprehensive plan to clean up gasoline that leaked into the ground near Ninth and Louisiana streets. But it's disconcerting to realize that state regulations allowed the contamination to go undetected until it triggered a fire that destroyed a house containing five apartments.

While the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is attacking the gasoline contamination, state lawmakers should get to work on measures to tighten the process by which gasoline stations monitor their systems and report leaks.

KDHE will construct a temporary pump and filtering facility on the site of the destroyed home, install vapor alarms in a dozen homes, and keep an eye on 25 monitoring wells that have been located around the area of the leak. Officials will be watching the situation, especially during periods of heavy rainfall and expect the majority of the fuel to be removed in two months, with the cleanup to be completed in a year.

The situation now seems to be marginally under control, which is more than can be said of the circumstances leading up to the April 30 fire.

State law only requires gasoline stations to report fuel losses if they represent more than 1 percent of their monthly sales. Owners of the Presto Phillips 66 station at 602 W. Ninth St. reported the apparent loss of 2,300 gallons of fuel in February, but that wasn't enough to trigger an investigation because it was less than 7,000 gallons or 1 percent of the station's monthly sales. It wasn't until after a loss of slightly more than 7,000 gallons in March that KDHE looked into the problem.

To compound the problem, KDHE decided in mid-April that the missing gasoline was the result of the pumps being miscalibrated, not a leaking tank. By the end of April, a house was smoldering in ruins and the matter finally got the attention it deserved.

The 1 percent standard, officials said, is a recognition that measuring gasoline in an underground tank is an inexact process. However, most people who live or work near a gasoline station probably think that a law that allows 7,000 gallons of gasoline to seep into nearby soil before anyone even starts an investigation is a bit too lax.

KDHE's director of environment said the department would be reviewing the Lawrence situation to see whether revised regulations might have prevented the spill or allowed it to be detected more quickly.

To a layman, the answer seems obvious. The leakage and fire in Lawrence could have been avoided, and the state should tighten its regulations to make sure similar incidents don't occur in other Kansas communities, perhaps with more tragic consequences.


GardenMomma 11 years, 10 months ago

Hello! I would think a leakage of 2,300 or 100 gallons or even 10 gallons should be enough to start an investigation. I wouldn't want someone to come and pour even one gallon of gasoline on my property, why should gas stations have a little leeway? I say monitor the tanks to the best degree possible and if there's a discrepancy, investigate it! Better safe than sorry.

sekanman 11 years, 10 months ago

On the face of it, I would tend to agree with you. However, we should remember that the amount of gas a station purchases wholesale is not the amount of gas they end up with in their storage tanks for resale. Gasoline expands and contracts with temperature so if you purchase 1000 gallons you may end up with only 950 gallons to sell, maybe less. The time of year makes a difference, the temperature of the ground makes a difference. Maybe there is someone smart enough reading this to come up with a way that is affordable and effective?

Jim Fisher 11 years, 10 months ago

A gas station has several means to monitor itself and to gauge the flow of fuel that it sells. One of these is an electric cathode to reduce the reaction that causes corrosion on steel tanks. Remember the station is located in OWL, and residents there know that if the wind changes direction, power is out. (an exageration) This interrupts corrosion protection, and when power is restored, maybe isn't reset. I'm not trying to deflect responsibility from Presto, but the minimum wagers on site, may not know the safe operation of a gas station. Tank inventories, measured by stick are not that accurate, and inventory reconciliations can be made over time averaging: a shortage one day may show up the next, something I learned while a minimum wager manager back in the 70's. Losses are investigated over time, and when it is determined the employees are not stealing gas is when the owner/operator starts to notice. Losing 3k gallons over three months should have opened some eyes a lot sooner, the wholesale price is at least twice that in dollars. Any legislation should focus on training and inventory reporting so reconciling losses would be reported at the earliest possible.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

As I have stated before this tank was installed in 1978. Cathodic protection is all well and good but is NOT a leak detection system. According to the Federal RCRA laws this tank shoucl have been upgraded with leak detection equipment or closed as of Dec. 22,1998. The KDHE DOE has a lot of explaining to do yet.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

7,000 gallons is 1% month of sales? That would mean that they sell 700,000 gallons a month? at around $3 a gallon, they go through $2.1million retail a month? I would believe 70,000 gallons, but that is a lot too. The tanks were 10,000 gallon, which meant they would be filled up and emptied 7 times in a mointh, with the 700,000 they would filled and emptied 70 times in a month!!! 700,00 gallons is 46,666.66 car fillups of 15 gallons. I don't think Presta has that kind of traffic. That would be almost 12,000 cars in a day! The math is not right!

I don't know where you got that information, but I think it was the 70,000 total monthly, and that would mean 700 gallons lost would be 1%. If you got your information from KDHE, they fibbed again, the math does not seem possible.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

Why does KDHE keep giving people the wrong or intentionally misleading information?

12,000 cars getting fillups every day? Half the population of the University of Kansas, a little over 1/8th of the population of Lawrence in cars at one gas station? Seems a bit much.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

Oh, remember, the leak percentage is the amount of the TANK that is "short" not the whole inventory of the station, just that one tank. Tanks cannot be added together on the 1% of monthly inventory averaging amonut.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

MU BAD!! That would be 12,000 per WEEK! or 1714 cars filling up per day at 15 gallons would 25,170 gallons per day, so they would have to fill the tanks up daily with a semi tanker(s) 2.5 times every day.

That's where I was going with the math. 1714 cars per day plus all the tankers to bring that amount of gas. I just do not think that that is possible.

With 70,000 per month it is 171.4 cars per day with 2,517 gallons per day or the tanks getting emptied and filled every 4-5 days. Tht seem plausible, but would mean the 1% is 700 gallons not 7,000 gallons.

Again, whom told you this whopper, and if it was KDHE, they need to be flailed and flogged publicly for being intentionally misleading. I want their name IN PRINT!

ASBESTOS 11 years, 10 months ago

From the LJWORLD "Station Montoring Procedures to be reviewed":

"In the case of Presto Phillips 66 at 602 W. Ninth St., Blackburn said the station sold about 70,000 gallons per month. That would allow about 700 gallons of leakage in a month before triggering a state report."

So I would like to know who thought the this statement was OK:

"...but that wasn't enough to trigger an investigation because it was less than 7,000 gallons or 1 percent of the station's monthly sales. It wasn't until after a loss of slightly more than 7,000 gallons in March that KDHE looked into the problem."

They had to report at 700 gallons of loss. They called in a 2300 gallon loss. Where is the descrepency..well it seems as if it is with just who in particular you talk with at KDHE. They cannot get their story straight on ONE TANK THAT LEAKED! HOW much in DISARRAY are they with THE REST OF THE TANKS IN THE STATE!!

Cluless and worthless!

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