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Gasoline leak contained as DOE plans cleanup

 - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO — The extent of an evasive gasoline leak plaguing the east and west sides of Viking Way near Poulsbo Junction Grocery has now been determined by the Washington State Department of Ecology, and it looks as though it will be a month or more before cleanup work can actually begin.

The leak, which stemmed from one of three Poulsbo Junction Grocery’s underground fuel tanks, was first discovered July 9 after area business owners reported strong gasoline fumes. One nearby establishment, Armstrong Fitness University, has since relocated.

On July 27, the DOE and Cascade Drilling bored nine holes into the ground and Viking Way near Poulsbo Junction Grocery to ascertain how far the leak had spread. Crews paid special attention to how the gasoline was entering a storm drain leading to a marshy area near the edge of Liberty Bay.

“The gas exists underground from the original point to as far out as the drain line, but it does not extend beyond that,” said DOE spokesman Larry Altose.

The plume runs about 50 feet east to west across Viking Way, and 20 feet along the road from north to south, and is eight feet deep underground. Now that it has been located, planning the best way to approach removal of the substance can begin, but will most likely take four to six weeks, Altose said. Test samples have been taken and will help the department decide its course of action.

“There is additional lab information that helps scientists develop the plan... we’re working on getting the rest of the data available to us,” he said. “We’re pausing for planning... what that’s going to mean, we don’t know yet.”

While determining the leak’s extent, the DOE has successfully kept the substance from entering the bay by installing absorbency pads and a carbon filtration system. But as the pads become full, gasoline fumes again spread to nearby businesses.

Ken Niemann, owner of Ken’s Northwest Automotive, said at the rate the pads are being changed, they often put out strong odors.

“As long as they keep the scum down the fumes aren’t bad,” he said.

Unlike Armstrong Fitness University, Niemann and his staff haven’t suffered medical symptoms due to overexposure of gasoline fumes, but customers have mentioned the smell, he said.

Altose said the DOE has recognized the need for more continuous changes, and is addressing the issue.

“We’ll make sure that it gets done,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s in the work plan on an ongoing basis.”

The DOE has several different technologies that could be included in the cleanup proposal. Chemical agents that cause gasoline to vent rapidly, fume-capturing devices and extraction wells are all possibilities. The work could interrupt the flow of traffic on Viking Way, but Altose said they will attempt to encompass a strategy that works best both for the city and nearby businesses.

“We want to make sure the proposal is doable and workable for all parties,” he said. “We’re well aware (Viking Way) is the only corridor to the businesses there.”

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