Thursday December 13, 2012

BARRE -- A failure in a hose at a gas station allowed as much as 3,000 gallons of gasoline to leak into the ground, with some finding its way into the sewer system, environmental and emergency responders said Wednesday.

With the leak at the North End Deli on North Main Street fixed, state officials were trying to determine the extent of the spill, where the gasoline is going, how to keep it out of the sewer system and remove it from the soil. The leak was at least the third from Wesco in Vermont since 1998, including one last year in Essex.

It’s not unusual for gas stations to inadvertently spill gasoline, but this case was unusual because the gas ended up in the sewage system. Some residents had detected gasoline fumes in their homes as long as three weeks ago after the gasoline migrated into the sewer system. No gasoline has been detected in the drinking water.

The leak was traced on Tuesday to the gas station.

"We are confident that the source of the leak has been found and secured," said Joseph Aldsworth, deputy Barre City fire chief.

On Wednesday the city removed manhole covers and installed fans to ventilate the sewage system until a contractor could set up a ventilation system. Most of the gasoline in the system was expected to evaporate.

The gasoline vapors never reached explosive levels, said Christopher Herrick, head of Vermont’s hazardous response team.


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Nor did the gasoline reach levels that would harm human health, officials said.

Residents who smell gas in their homes were asked to call the fire department. Anyone who experience symptoms that they believe were related to the gasoline exposure, such as dizziness and nausea, were asked to call 911.

"I want to apologize to anyone who has been impacted by this. We are truly sorry for this incident," said David Simendinger, Wesco’s president.

He said a worst-case scenario is that "we could be missing up to 3,000 gallons of gasoline."

"I think within a few days we’ll have this mitigated," said Simendinger, who said he did not know what the cost of the cleanup might be.