Gasoline leak poses a threat to bay

POULSBO — The Washington State Department of Ecology determined last week that a gasoline leak stemming from one of three Poulsbo Junction Grocery underground tanks spread into the storm drainage system on the east side of Viking Way, but has not spread into Liberty Bay.

The estimated 10,000-gallon tank, which was supposed to be replaced by 1998, has been emptied and will be removed along with the surrounding soil so the scope of the leak can be determined, Poulsbo Public Works director Jeff Bauman said Wednesday. The bay has been tested and shows no signs of gasoline, he said.

The situation was first brought to public works’ attention when nearby business owners reported a pungent gasoline odor July 6.

“The day that it became known to us, one of our crew went out and installed absorbent barriers,” Bauman said. “If there’s any good news, it’s that there was a concentrated effort to stop it before there was environmental damage.”

Along with the removal of the tank, the storm drain line has been flushed. Fumes are still being detected in the area, and crews are working to discover where gasoline is entering the drain. The DOE is overseeing the situation and has appropriated $200,000 in emergency funds to stabilize the leak. The tank’s owners, who refuse to be named, reportedly did not have the resources to fund the removal, and their insurance would not cover it because the tank was illegal.

“It’s still getting in somehow,” said DOE spokesman Larry Altose. “We’re working to secure the leak so that it’s no longer flowing into the storm drain.”

Altose said the DOE will continue to measure the fumes, though at no point have they reached a level that could cause an explosion or pose a threat to public safety. The department’s spill response team and underground storage tank team have been working with the Poulsbo Fire Department, Department of Emergency Management, Kitsap County Health Department and the Port of Poulsbo. Marine Vacuum Service was hired to empty out the tank.

Altose said the DOE has yet to determine when gasoline began leaking out of the tank or how far the plume has spread. It is clear, however, basic procedures that detect leaks and prevent corrosion were not followed.

“Basic requirements appear to have been lacking at this station,” he said. “The reason for the requirements is to prevent situations just like this.”

Water quality fines could reach $10,000 per day of violation, though no monetary ramifications have yet been discussed and more factors still need to be considered, Altose said.

The station’s current owner said he has had the business for only five months. The previous owner could be held liable in addition to the current owners if it is determined they knew of the potential problem, Bauman said.

All gas deliveries to the station have been cancelled. The gas pumps have been shut down, while the retail portion of the store is still open for business.

“I’m afraid the current owners have a big problem on their hands,” Bauman said.

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