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Gasoline leak monitoring set to impact Viking Way

POULSBO — The Viking Way gasoline leak, first discovered stemming from a Poulsbo Junction Grocery underground tank nearly two months ago, is still waiting for cleanup, and the Department of Ecology is working continually to keep the contamination out of Liberty Bay until a plan is devised, though there is no estimation on how long that could take.

Ground monitoring wells are slated for drilling Sept. 11 and 12 to allow the DOE access to groundwater. The boring of six to eight holes 4- to 6-inches wide and anywhere from several to 20-feet deep will span both sides of Viking Way near the leak’s location, and may disrupt traffic, though the DOE expects it to only be a slight interruption.

“There will be some drilling occurring on the 11th and 12th, starting on the gas station side,” said DOE spokesman Larry Altose. “Some of the equipment may have to be in the road.”

He said lane detours are expected, but the work shouldn’t delay or stop cars.

Once the wells are completed, the DOE will conduct periodic tests of the water to obtain information about the spread of the leak. Altose was uncertain how long monitoring would continue, but said the carbon filters and pump station set up to protect surrounding wetlands will remain in place during the process.

“For the time being we think that the surface waters are safe, they’re protected,” he said “Sometimes it takes some time and order to get information that can lead to cleanup action. Because of the road and existing businesses and utilities in the area any work that’s done has to be carefully planned.”

Altose said it is possible parts of Viking Way will need to be excavated, but nothing yet is certain.

Ken’s Northwest Automotive owner Ken Niemann said the gasoline odor responsible for the initial detection of the leak, and for the evacuaton of nearby business Armstrong Fitness University, has nearly dissipated, though looking in the creek it is clear the gasoline is still present.

“We hardly smell it at all anymore,” he said. “You can still see the sheen, it’s still there.”

Niemann said crews have been working near his store to continue protection of Liberty Bay, but it hasn’t been a detriment to business.

“Honestly they don’t bother us at all,” he said. “It’s been no problem.”

Armstrong Fitness University owner Ann Armstrong, who left her Viking Way location at the end of July after clients and staff suffered overexposure symptoms, now has the gym open in the former BayView Fitness location at 20101 Front Street. She originally moved to the old Nilsen’s Appliance building downtown but was met with several roadblocks to operation, including a difficulty paying permit fees and a city stop work order based on building code violations. AFU reopened in the old BayView Fitness spot Sept. 4, and Armstrong said she is glad to be finally back in business.

“We had to really scale it back,” she said. “It will work for now.”

The DOE is still conducting its ongoing investigation into the party or parties responsible for the leak, but Altose said the process could be a long one as cleanup is still the main priority. The department is also upping its staff in an effort to conduct more regular tank inspections and to better enforce national tank standards.

“What we hope this points out to is the importance of the tank regulations. They are there for a good reason to prevent mishaps such as this,” he said.

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