Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
By Janie Southard
Flooding causes fuel tank leak
ST. MARYS - Last week's flooding of the St. Marys River brought with it a leak from an old underground fuel tank. Ohio EPA, the county emergency management office and the city fire department are working together to figure out who will be responsible for the cleanup bill.
A strong fuel odor Wednesday at an old building at 101 East Spring St. caused Ohio Dominion to call in the St. Marys Fire Department to check it out.
"We found a strong diesel odor, but couldn't locate the leak," St. Marys Fire Chief Ken Kline told The Daily Standard on Monday afternoon. "It could have been fuel leaked into the river maybe from the residue on the (South Street) parking lot. We just didn't know at that time."
As the floodwater dropped the odor worsened and fire department personnel were able to locate an abandoned underground tank that obviously had some petroleum product left in it.
The old building is one of several owned by Kalvin Wayne Schanz (through his Counsel Appraisals, Inc.), who has said he was unaware of the underground tank. The Michigan native told officials he carries insurance that covers certain environmental issues.
However, although Schanz owns the building that originally had the strong fuel odor, no one is sure yet who owns the tank because it sits between buildings in the area, according to Kline.
"Kalvin's building did have fuel oil in the basement and it does have mud floors ... We're now running lines to see where (the fuel lines) run, but (fuel) lines in those old buildings make a lot of twists and turns," Kline said.
What is suspected is that one of the outside vent pipes to the tank finally rusted through allowing some flood water to enter the tank. St. Marys Mayor Greg Freewalt pointed out that fuel is lighter than water, "so it rose up and out, mixing in with the river flood."
Kline said contaminated water did overflow onto the parking lot, which is now cleaned up.
"Some flushed down the river, but we don't know how much. It was diluted enough that it shouldn't be a problem," he said.
The chief stressed that cleanup is continuing and there is no explosion hazard.
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