ELY – A gasoline leak, originating from a broken underground feed line at the Holiday Station on Sheridan Street, led to thousands of gallons of gasoline leaking into the city’s sanitary and …
ELY – A gasoline leak, originating from a broken underground feed line at the Holiday Station on Sheridan Street, led to thousands of gallons of gasoline leaking into the city’s sanitary and storm sewer system earlier this week.
Cleanup and mitigation procedures continued on Thursday and are expected to last several more days.
A special City Council meeting was called Wednesday night to provide an update to council members on the issue that grew exponentially into a full-fledged emergency when estimates of the leaked fuel grew from hundreds of gallons to as much as 4,844 gallons late on Wednesday.
According to Mayor Chuck Novak, the Ely Fire Department was dispatched to the Holiday station at about 5 a.m. on Monday morning. “They lifted up the manhole cover and found gasoline in the storm sewer system. They collected more than 100 gallons of fuel at that time,” Novak said.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency determined that almost 5,000 gallons of fuel was unaccounted for at the Holiday Station. “That’s a lot of gasoline,” Novak said. “It has permeated into the ground somewhere. We don’t know where.”
MPCA is overseeing the response, and the State Fire Marshall’s office is assisting in the effort. “Their three main goals are to continue to ventilate the sanitary sewer system, recover remaining fuel at the release or source point, and to monitor the storm sewer system and ventilate as needed,” he said.
The leaking fuel drained to a small portion of town, in an area north of the Holiday Station to Miner’s Lake and east of 10th Avenue. “The amount of fuel that got into the storm sewer system was minimal,” Novak said. “On Miner’s Lake, the Fire Department recovered maybe 50 gallons, so it wasn’t a big impact down there.
Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski said after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was notified, a crew from OSI Environmental Inc., of Eveleth, was dispatched to Ely early Monday to assist in the recovery and clean-up efforts.
The OSI crew was at the intersection of Camp Street and 17th Avenue on Tuesday afternoon conducting clean-up procedures. Fuel-soaking materials were seen at the storm-sewer culvert on 17th Avenue and Camp Street Tuesday afternoon. Similar clean-up efforts were underway at the mouth of the drainage ditch that emptied into Miner’s Lake.
Ventilator fans were positioned at manholes at several intersections on Thursday in an effort to ventilate the fumes. “There is no explosive concern, but the odor can be bothersome,” Novak said.
Officials involved in the coordinated response gathered at City Hall Thursday morning for an update meeting. Novak is gathering and will be disseminating all information regarding the cleanup and mitigation procedure. Monitoring of fuel vapor levels continues, and remaining levels are not considered a risk to public health.
Langowski said that fuel was discovered in the city’s sanitary sewer line Wednesday morning. “We discovered this through a floor drain on Washington Street,” he said. “We didn’t find anything in the storm sewers in that area.”
Ely Fire Chief Tom Erchull said monitoring of storm and sanitary sewers continued Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning. “The highest levels we had were at 1,300 parts per million right at the source area,” he said.
Excavation at the fuel tank and pipe system at the Holiday Station will likely take place later Thursday or Friday, according to John McCarthy of Environmental Troubleshooters, Inc. of Duluth. “When we can identify the fuel source area and remove that source, we will stop any further leaking of fuel. We are boring around the source area and will have a better idea later on Thursday on where excavation operations will be conducted. When we eliminate the source, we stop the bleeding.”
The Ely Fire Department was requested to have foam fire retardant material on standby as excavation operations proceed.
The Timberjay will have updates on this story as conditions warrant.