Old tanks spoil the soil

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Contamination from old fuel tanks once buried near South Fulton Street poses little risk to the surrounding neighborhood, a state official says.
Stimulus dollars are paying to remove the tanks and treat contaminated soil and groundwater at 1414 S. Fulton St., the former site of an old gas station across from Curt & Geri’s Dairy Bar. The lot has been vacant for many years.
“The site is considered low-risk,” said Cathy Akroyd, public information officer for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Waste Management.
As long as people nearby are drinking city water and not well water, there is no cause for concern, Akroyd said. The site is near the entrance to the Fulton Heights neighborhood.
“By excavating the contaminated soil and introducing oxygenating compounds into the excavation, we hope to reduce the contamination levels to such that they will naturally degrade to levels below all regulatory limits,” she said.
It may take some time, but the site eventually could be available for commercial or industrial use, she said.
In November, Progress Environmental of Winston-Salem conducted an investigation on behalf of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, the federal stimulus program. Soil sampling and groundwater monitoring revealed contamination on the site exceeding the regulatory guidelines.
Soil samples showed levels of gasoline and diesel fuel as high as 8,170 parts per million, Akroyd said.
The levels exceeded both the Soil-to-Groundwater Maximum Soil Contaminant Concentrations, as well as the Residential Maximum Soil Contaminant Concentrations, she said.
A groundwater sample from one of the two monitoring wells on the site indicated contaminants exceeding allowable levels.
Progress Environmental has been working since last year to excavate the contaminated soils on site and introduce oxygenating compounds, which encourage the degradation of petroleum in both the remaining soil and the groundwater, Akroyd said.
Lane Yates, a developer who bought the property about 10 years ago, said state officials contacted him and asked if they could remove the buried fuel tanks, as they are throughout North Carolina.
Yates said he was told when he bought the property the tanks were grandfathered and didn’t have to be removed, but he was happy to have the state excavate them. And at no cost to him.
“When an opportunity comes like this, you take advantage of it,” Yates said.
Contamination at the site was first discovered after the Stanback Company purchased the property in 1992 for the purpose of constructing a manufacturing facility, Akroyd said.
During investigation of the property, two tanks were discovered and the Stanback Company had them removed. The tanks were never registered, and the former property owner could not be located, she said.
Two years ago, the program became part of the State Lead program and four more tanks were removed. Testing showed additional contaminants.
Without stimulus funds, problems at the site may not have been addressed for some time, Akroyd said.
Yates said he’s had some interest in the site as an ATM location.

Timeline of events
Stanback Company purchases property and removes two fuel tanks. Soil contamination confirmed — 363.9 tons removed.
Yates Development purchases property. Remaining underground tanks are grandfathered.
Site becomes part of the State Lead program. Four more tanks removed. Sidewall samples confirm release of both gasoline and diesel range organics.
Site included in American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. In November, Progress Environmental of Winston-Salem conducts an investigation. Additional soil sampling and groundwater monitoring reveal contamination on site exceeds regulatory guidelines.
Progress hired to excavate contaminated soils and introduce oxygenating compounds, which encourage degradation of petroleum in remaining soil and groundwater.
Work concludes at site, which state categorizes as low-risk. Official says no concern for neighbors because they drink city water, not well water.
Source: N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Waste Management and Yates Development LLC
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.