DIXONVILLE - A small amount of diesel fuel leaked Tuesday night from a large tank being removed from the former Riverview Florist property, resulting in a cleanup operation overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Bart Ray, special investigator for the EPA's Northeast District Office, estimated late Tuesday that less than 100 gallons of fuel had leaked onto the ground and entered a creek, and on Wednesday morning, he revised that estimate to about eight gallons.
A resident of the area detected the strong odor coming from the spill Tuesday and notified the EPA, which in turn notified the county Emergency Management Agency.
Bart Ray (left), special investigator for the Environmental Protection Agency, pulls a fuel-soaked pad from a creek as Greg Heath (center) and Walt Beatty look on. Heath and Beatty are employees of X-Treme Demolition who were assisting Wednesday with the cleanup of the diesel fuel spill. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)
EMA Director Luke Newbold in turn notified the city fire department, which responded about 8 p.m. to the former florist site, which is now inside city limits after being purchased and annexed from Liverpool Township.
It was quickly determined the fuel had also entered a creek running across the nearby church camp property, which is located in the township, resulting in the Liverpool Township Fire Department being notified.
Ray, ELFD Chief Bill Jones and LTFD Chief Cliff Utt as well as township firefighters were still on the scene at midnight and had begun the process of containing the material.
Booms were placed across the creek to keep the fluid from traveling downstream, and investigation indicated it had not made it any farther than the church camp, with no evidence that it had reached the Ohio River.
Tuesday night, Ray said it was "still a mystery" how the oil entered the creek, but during the daylight hours on Wednesday a drain pipe was found where the fuel had leaked onto the ground.
The tank from which the fuel leaked was being removed from the Riverview property by X-Treme Demolition, owned by city Deputy Service-Safety Director Dan Galeoti, who was on the site of the leak both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Galeoti's company had been hired by the city's Community Improvement Corporation to clean up the Riverview property to prepare it for development.
Galeoti said workers had checked the tank and found what appeared to be just a small amount of ice and water. While it was being loaded up to take to a scrap yard, the tank rolled, and workers then saw some fuel leaking from it.
"There wasn't that much coming out," Galeoti said, adding that workers believed they had scooped up all the spilled fuel but some managed to get in the drain pipe.
Galeoti said he deals with the EPA all the time and said, "I do everything by the book."
The tank had not been buried but had been sitting on the property for years and had actually been used to keep vehicles from entering the property for dumping, according to Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell, who said previous environmental studies have shown no underground tanks on the parcel of ground.
On Wednesday, absorbent pads were being placed on top of the water to soak up the fuel, and Ray said that, while diesel fuel in a stream is not good, it does float and can be removed with the absorbent pads.
Township fire officials commended Heritage Thermal for providing the absorbent pads. Galeoti's workers and Ray were placing the pads onto the spill Wednesday, and Ray said the EPA will monitor the site for a few days.
Diesel fuel is not considered a hazardous waste, so no special method is required to dispose of the fuel-soaked pads, which can be thrown into the trash.
Ray said the diesel fuel presents no health hazard to the public, posing only a nuisance due to the smell permeating the area.
Asked whether Galeoti or anyone can face fines or penalties for the spill, Ray said that is an option but the priority is to get the substance cleaned up.
"From our perspective, this is a minor spill," he said.