A Moab family displaced from their home by noxious fumes from a 50,000-gallon gasoline leak is growing impatient despite recent efforts by the state to begin cleaning up the 6.1-acre spill.
"I'm really frustrated at this point in time," said LorRaine Guymon. Her family and three other families evacuated their homes in February because of fumes from gasoline leaking from underground storage tanks.Crews contracted by the Utah Bureau of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management have begun constructing a containment trench to clean up the leak. But Guymion said the state is not reacting quickly enough to the 1986 spill.
State officials, admitting the cleanup project has taken a long time, said they have encountered bureaucratic hurdles and changes in state law that have slowed their efforts. Now crews are working on the spill as quickly as possible, they said.
Health officials first detected low levels of toluene, xylene and leukemia-causing benzene fumes from an underground gasoline leak in a commercial building in downtown Moab, said Jim Adamson of the state Health Department's Southeastern District.
Two Moab gasoline stations, La Sal Oil Ltd, and Rio Vista Oil, are the "potentially responsible parties," Adamson said.
Measurements of benzyne, the most toxic agent of the three, were as high as .709 milligrams per cubic meter in one home. Gasoline percolating to the surface and collecting in a marshy area near the homes forced Guymon, her husband and children from the home in February, she said.
"If they had investigated immediately...it would have been cleaned up faster," Guymon said.
But the state has never encountered gasoline leaks such as the one in Moab and only recently as had state laws in effect permitting environmental health officials to tackle the problem, said Brent Bradford, Hazardous Waste Bureau director.
Only last year the Utah Legislature authorized the leaky underground storage tank section of the hazardous waste office to take action on gas leaks such as the one in Moab, Bradford said.
Additionally, federal funding to clean up leaking underground storage tanks was not available from the Environmental Protection Agency until recently, he said.
And while his office made a formal request for the money in early 1987, getting the funds took extra time because such a request had never been made before, he said.
Guymon and the other three families evacuated from their homes are inconvenienced by the spill, Bradford admitted, but "we're dealing with a brand-new program at the federal level, and these folks got caught in the test case," he said.
"It's taken awhile but we're making some good progress," he said adding that $41,000 in cleanup and relocation funds will be given to the families soon.
Guymon said health department officials told her the benzene exposure levels in her home were not high enough that she should move out, even though she and her children periodically became sick.
But toxicologist Bobby Craft of Industrial Health Inc said the levels were indeed a risk. The Moab exposure rates are in excess of recommended benzene levels for workers who spend eight hours daily in a noxious environment, Craft said. He recommended in February the families leave their homes immediately.