Underground fuel tanks removed from East Spencer’s former Dunbar Center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 20, 2018

EAST SPENCER — Three fuel tanks that remained underground at the former Dunbar Center were recently unearthed as part of the town of East Spencer’s Brownfields Assessment Grant, says Town Administrator F.E. Isenhour.

In 2016, the town was one of two in North Carolina awarded a $400,000 federal grant provided through the Environmental Protection Agency. The grant has enabled the town to test vacant property to determine future development potential.

The program provides communities with the funding to assess, clean up and redevelop contaminated properties.

The fuel tanks were between 10,000 gallons and 20,000 gallons and don’t appear to be contaminated.

“Usually if there’s bad tanks, there is some coloring in the soil and a smell,” said Isenhour.

The company that removed the tanks determined that based on the condition of the surrounding soil and the smell that there likely was no contamination, but tests will confirm that, he added.

It took three to four days to dig up and remove the tanks.

Removal of the tanks is part of Phase 2 of the grant. The tanks were behind the former Dunbar Center building, and two others were to the side of the building beside the old band room/shop area.

Isenhour said when the building operated as a school, the heating was changed from coal to oil. The building was later heated with gas, but the fuel tanks remained as backup.

Although the town doesn’t own the property, the Brownfields grant allowed the town to have the tanks removed and the ground tested. Paul L. Dunbar Group owns the property.

Cardno Associates has been working at no cost to the town on the project, but it has received payment through grant reimbursement.

Cardno contracted with a company to remove the tanks, which were taken to Holmes Iron and Metal scrapyard and cut up. The company brought in dirt to fill the holes left behind.

If the Paul L. Dunbar Group decides to do more work inside the building, it can apply for a remediation grant to get rid of asbestos in the floor tile. Isenhour said the tile is underneath the part of the building that burned in 2014.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.