TREMONT CITY – The State Fire Marshal's office is inspecting a parcel of village property containing two orphan petroleum tanks.
Tremont City reportedly purchased the property in November 2007 for $20,000 with the intention of turning it into a village park. Village Council President Tony Flood said the council was told beforehand that the property contained one or two 175-gallon fuel tanks.
“With them being fuel oil tanks, there was no restriction,” Flood said. “You can remove them at anytime.”
But the property at 113 E. Main St. has turned out to be a potential health hazard, what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency terms a petroleum brown field. It contains two under. ground storage tanks between 1,000 and 4,000 gallons in volume. One tank is thought to have contained diesel fuel and the other gasoline.
In the months since the purchase, village officials have repeatedly assured concerned residents that the village is in the process of seeking a grant from the State Fire Marshal's office to extract the tanks and clean up the site. However, the State Fire Marshal's office does not administer such grants; the U.S. EPA does. Moreover, neither the fire marshal's office nor the EPA had any record of the site prior to inquiries by the Springfield News-Sun.
At a Tremont City village council meeting on Monday, July 14, Willage Fire Official Eric Johnson assured villagers that, based on an analysis solicited by an independent consultant, the tanks' contents are 98 percent groundwater and less than 2 percent fuel.
“Based on that, I think we can abandon the tanks in-ground,” he said. “I’m just waiting on a final ruling (from the Bureau of Underground Storage Tanks). Right now it's in their hands.”
Both Flood and Village Councilman Mark Hunger have echoed that the matter is now in the hands of the State Fire Marshal. But according to the fire marshal's office, no one from the village, including Johnson, has submitted site-specific paperwork to the office.
Land that Tremont City bought for a park was once a filling station; tanks remain underground there.
TREMONT CITY — Andrea Parrott was at the meeting when the village bought the piece of land for a park.
“We applauded. What a lovely gesture for the children,” said Andrea Parrott, who has lived in Tremont City 35 years. “Don’t ask me how many meetings later it comes out. They're talking openly about underground tanks that hadn't ever been mentioned before.”
What was meant to be the site for a park has turned out to be a potential health hazard, what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls a petroleum brownfield. The property at 113 East Main St. was once a filling station. When it closed in the early 1960s, two petroleum tanks were still in the ground, and there they remain.
“What we found is there's a federal mandate to have them removed,” said Tony Flood, president of the village council. “We don't know the exact size (of the tanks). They're not full by no means. They've only got a couple inches in them.”
In March, Flood approached independent consultant, Dan Skinner, and solicited an independent inspection of the property. He determined that the two underground storage tanks once held diesel and gasoline and are between 1,000 and 4,000 gallons in volume. An estimate Skinner solicited from the Buckeye Oil Equipment Company put the cost of their removal at between $13,903 and $22,314. He advised the village council to seek grant money from the State Fire Marshal's office to fund the extraction.
And in the months since, village officials have repeatedly assured concerned residents that the village is in the process of seeking such a grant. “Right now that's in the hands of the State Fire Marshal," village councilman Mark Hunger said in late June. “It’s been in the works for the past month and a half. We've done what we can do.”
But contrary to what Hunger and Flood and the village fire official have all publicly asserted, the State Fire Marshal's office has so far received nothing from the village but requests for general information. What's more, the State Fire Marshal's office doesn't administer grants for the removal of such tanks, and neither it nor the EPA had any record of the site prior to inquiries by the Springfield News-Sun.
“There maybe some confusion about who is administering the grant,” said Tiffany Kaveleck, brownfield manager With the Ohio EPA. "The State Fire Marshal is involved in one aspect of the process in that they declare it an orphan Site.”
The village could conceivably receive a grant of up to $200,000 from the U.S. EPA, but the application process is highly competitive. In the last fiscal year, Region 5 of the EPA received 900 proposals. The agency is funding only about 40 percent of those.
The State Fire Marshal has maintained a list of registered underground storage tanks Since 1988. There are 290 in Clark County alone, but the list doesn't include those at Tremont City's main street property because the village's tanks are at least 40 years old.Tanks as old as these are often constructed with bare steel, which is susceptible to corrosion.
If either of Tremont's tanks has a leak, the cleanup could be even more costly, especially if groundwater has been contaminated. Corrective actions could run as high as $1 million, according to the U.S. EPA.
The good news for the village is that it is doubtful groundwater contamination has occurred. During Skinner's inspection, measurements of the fluid levels in the tanks were taken several days apart, and no appreciable loss of fluid was observed.
Dr. Benjamin Richard, a geologist who in 2001 worked with the Groundwater Advocate Group to fight groundwater contamination in Clark County, says that, with the water table located 25 to 30 feet below the ground, contaminants probably wouldn't have reached it anyway.
In a June interview, Hunger seemed little concerned about the property.
“Let’s be truthful,” he said. “The kids have been playing baseball and football in that field with the tanks there for the past 30 or 40 years and none of them has got sick.”