Wind River Petroleum has been given a Sept. 21 deadline by state regulators to resolve a problem in getting a Gunnison family back into their home that was in the path of a 20,000-gallon gas leak last summer from an underground tank at a Top Stop station.
"The foundation walls were essentially saturated with petroleum," said Brad Johnson, director of the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Members of the Utah Solid and Hazardous Waste Control Board were told in a meeting Thursday that Wind River has cleaned up about 11,000 gallons while trying to satisfy everyone who was impacted.
"Quite a few people were not happy with the way their properties were restored," Johnson said.
He added that a higher water table this year has been good and bad, acting to dilute the gasoline while at the same time making it more difficult to remove pollutants from the remaining plume.
While 13 lawsuits have been filed against Wind River, the company this year also sued for access to one residence it was required to clean up. The owner had posted a "no trespassing" sign in order to force the company into writing a check to her as compensation for being evacuated from her home, where she also worked. A 6th District judge ordered the property owner to allow crews access for cleanup.
As of early June, Wind River had spent about $600,000 of its own money on cleanup. Add to that another $1 million from the state's fund for leaking underground storage tanks, to investigate and clean up the mess.
A Deseret News report earlier this year found unresolved cases of leaky underground storage tanks all over Utah, with more than 100 just in Salt Lake City. According to state records, there are about 5,000 accounted-for underground storage tanks statewide, with a majority containing gasoline or a petroleum product.
In keeping with one goal of the 2005 Energy Policy Act to protect groundwater, the board has been working this year on tightening rules on underground tanks, looking into requiring better liners and monitoring efforts.
Johnson told board members his division will be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify where potentially hazardous government-owned underground fuel tanks are located in Utah. He said four, all of them closed, have been found so far. "That doesn't mean there aren't more out there," Johnson noted.The Associated Press reported this week that FEMA has known since the 1990s about at least 150 underground tanks in need of inspection for possible leaks around the country. Many of the fuel tanks were designed for emergencies dating back to the Cold War.