CHAPEL HILL – Construction is underway again at the Family Fare BP off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the source of the gasoline leak into Crow Branch Creek last month.
A gasoline tank is being installed at the site.
Bishop Construction Company was doing renovation work at the BP just before the time of the leak. Sometime in the early morning hours of August 2, falling concrete punctured a whole in one of the fiberglass tanks at the gas station. The breached compartment held approximately 3,200 gallons of gasoline at the time of the incident, though the full amount was not leaked. Gasoline escaped from a sump pump connected to a storm drain, which then flowed directly into Crow Branch Creek, a feeder of Booker Creek and Eastwood Lake.
An unnamed tributary to Crow Branch Creek near Critz Drive and Booker Creek at N. Lakeshore Drive registered levels of toluene, a substance found in gasoline, which equated to a state Stream Standard Violation.
Marvin Barnes, of M.M. Fowler, the company which owns the gas station, and William Bishop, of the construction company, were cited as a result of the leak. The parties have till September 15 to respond to the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, and could face five state violations and fines up to $25,000http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/construction-underway-at-gas-station-cited-for-august-leak
Photo by Julie McClintock
CHAPEL HILL – Reports of dead fish are emerging in the aftermath of Friday’s gasoline leak at the Family Fare BP off Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The Town of Chapel Hill said that as much as 2,400 gallons of gasoline spilled into Crow Branch Creek, though state and federal agencies haven’t released an official number.
Julie McClintock is the President of the Friend’s of Bolin Creek group and a member of the Booker Creek Watershed Alliance. She worked as an Air Quality Specialist for the Environment Protection Agency for more than a decade and also served on OWASA’s Board of Directors.
McClintock’s neighborhood is at the lower end of the spill’s potential reach. She hasn’t seen any dead fish herself but said neighbors have spotted them in Ellen Lake. WCHL received a report of dead fish on the banks of Crow Branch and Booker Creeks, in addition to a strong gasoline smell and foam in the water.
“I think it is terrible that this happened. I hope whoever is responsible will pay the full cost,” McClintock said.
An EPA representative told WCHL news Tuesday that Bishop Construction Company was doing renovation work at the BP last Thursday and needed a pump to drain the rainwater from a footing hole connected to a pipe leading to a Town storm drain. The accumulation of rainwater caused the footing hole to cave in, and then falling concrete punctured a hole in one of the fiberglass tanks below.
The breached compartment held somewhere approximately 3,200 gallons of gasoline at the time of the incident, though the full amount was not leaked. Because the pump connected to the storm drain, gasoline flowed directly into Crow Branch Creek, a feeder of Booker Creek and Eastwood Lake.
Bishop Construction Company and the gas station are considered the “potentially responsible parties,” according to the EPA, but subsequent action hasn’t been taken at this point.
“There are a bunch of different pollutants that are a part of gasoline, and part of the spill involved ethanol, which is what is in high-test gasoline,” McClintock said. “Ethanol mixes with water rather than floating on top. It is more pervasive and does kill wildlife more effectively than gasoline.”
The EPA believed that the farthest reach of the spill was just Crow Branch Creek.
A rep from the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Water Quality said they are awaiting a report from on-site clean-up crews to determine how many gallons of gasoline were leaked. The DENR also sent water samples collected from several creek branches for analysis, but results aren’t expected until later this week or early next week.
“There is more to it than just the animals that you can see,” McClintock said. “Healthy streams actually have little, tiny creatures that you can’t see, and you almost need a microscope to see them. That is the chain of life. If those are damaged and are gone, as you go up higher in the food chain, the frogs and so on, there is nothing for them to eat.”
McClintock said that trace amounts of the gasoline remain in the stream, and there is a visible sheen along the banks.
“It is just like gasoline or oil getting on something. You can see it on the plants or on the surface of the water. It just can be seen.”
She said she hopes the Town of Chapel Hill will work on prevention efforts so something like this never happens again.
“To me, the most precious thing about the area that we live in is the vegetation, the wide diversity of wildlife, and plants that are really unusual. I really want to do everything that I can do protect it,” McClintock said.
McClintock was on-scene Friday and watched as the Chapel Hill Fire Department and other local agencies responded to the leak, efforts which she and the EPA have praised.
Efforts are currently underway are to ensure that any remaining petroleum product is trapped and removed before moving farther downstream, according to a Town rep. The dams established along Crow Branch and Booker Creeks will remain until the Town receives the “all clear” call from the EPA and the DENR.
The Town is no longer managing the site.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/dead-fish-reports-surface-following-friday-gas-leak
Pictured: Gas Leak Response; Photo by Julie McClintock of the Booker Creek Watershed Alliance
CHAPEL HILL – The Environmental Protection Agency is praising the efforts of the Chapel Hill Fire Department for the way it responded to Friday’s gas leak at the Family Fare BP off Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Questions still linger, though, about what impact the leak will have on our local environment.
Kenneth Rhame, On-Scene Coordinator for the EPA, says at this point the EPA does not have an official number of how many gallons of gasoline leaked into Crow Branch Creek.
“Before the spill was contained, the Fire Department had ordered resources like getting soil, rock, piping, and constructed the underflow dam that is just north of N. Lakeshore Drive in order to ensure that the spill was contained,” Rhame says.
Rhame explains that the quick response of the CHFD made the difference in keeping a bad situation from turning into something much worse.
“Normally for the construction part, they will wait for contractors to arrive on site to do that [respond to the leakage]. Here, they used various city assets to get it done. I think it ultimately prevented more environmental impact than what would have happened,” Rhame says.
The Fire Department worked in conjunction with the Chapel Hill Police Department, Orange County Emergency Services and the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Water Quality.
The EPA provided air monitoring to make sure that the public and response agencies weren’t being exposed to any harmful odors. The residential areas were not endangered, but the site itself had elevated readings
Rhame explains that Bishop Construction Company was doing renovation work at the BP last Thursday and needed a pump to drain the rainwater from a footing hole connected to a pipe leading to a Town storm drain. When the rain began to accumulate, it caused the footing hole to cave in, and then falling concrete punctured a hole in the fiber glass tank below. The leaking gasoline flowed into Crow Branch, a feeder to Booker Creek and Eastwood Lake.
“Since they had a submersible pump in the excavation, a lot of the petroleum that was released was pumped directly to the storm drain,” Rhame says.
Danny Smith, Regional Supervisor for the DENR Division of Water Resources, believes that Crow Branch was the only body of water affected. His crew was on site Tuesday assessing the current situation. Smith says they are awaiting the analysis of water samples collected from several creek branches but don’t expect to get the results until later this week or early next week.
“One of the things that we are looking into is how much product remained in the tank and how much was de-watered from the sump pump from their excavation. The window of time that the pump was in operation will help us to get a better handle on the volume of product that may have gotten into the stream,” Smith says.
Smith explains that the gas station’s tank had two compartments which hold 6,000 gallons of gasoline each. One of those compartments was breached by the falling concrete.
“So certainly there was product that was released, and there was a lot of product that was available to be released, but not all of it was,” he says.
Rhame says that trace amounts of the gasoline remain in the stream, adding “You get this bathtub effect where the water goes up and down, and you’ll get some sheening along the banks where the gas was caught up in vegetation.”
He expects the total clean-up to last a month, but the active recovery process will take about a week more. He says the DENR will continue to monitor the situation.
“They still have petroleum collection equipment mobilized out there,” Rhame says. “They still have absorbent booms and pads that they are using to pick up the residual. I would say that stuff will stay in place for about a week or two just to catch anything residual as rains occur.”
Bishop Construction Company and the gas station are considered the “potentially responsible parties,” but Rhame says the EPA hasn’t taken any subsequent action at this point. He says the construction company has been “very cooperative” and brought in Zebra Private Remediation Services to help in the clean-up. Zebra’s vacuum truck was used to remove the remaining gasoline on site to prevent further leakage.