The smell of gasoline lingers in Marion, Virginia after a gas station's tank leaked into the town sewer system.
Smyth County Emergency Management Coordinator Charles Harrington says they were able to narrow the source of the gasoline to a manhole on the east end of Marion, and from there pinpoint exactly where the leak originated. Harrington says the Marathon gas station on the corner of South Holston and North Main Street is the epicenter. "Two pools of gasoline were located in the ground utilizing a special drill that has a sensor on it," says Harrington. "A monitoring well was put in and product was pumped off."
News 5 learned more than 250 gallons of gasoline and water have been pumped out of the ground since Wednesday, but no one seems to know how it got there. "We really do not know how it was able to breach into the sanitary sewer system. That is the most unusual thing about this particular incident," says Harrington.
Fred Murray has been the station owner since 2006, and he says they've never had any trouble with the tanks. "The tank's fine," says Murray. "[The] only thing they can figure is the pumps have been slowly leaking through the years."
The leading theory is that rainwater pushed the leached gasoline towards the sewer line, where it found a hole in a pipe joint or the manhole. The gasoline had to travel less than 100 feet from the storage tank to the sewer and about 300 feet from the closest pump.
Murray says there was no sign of trouble. The station's tank monitoring equipment didn't detect a problem, and there was no indication Murray was losing valuable inventory. "I'm glad that it was found when it was and we're getting it fixed. It was costing us money that we didn't know about," says Murray.
Cleaning the ground, or remediation, is already underway, but it doesn't come cheap. Murray will pay a minimum $10,000 out of pocket. "It hurts. We'll have to borrow money," says Murray. "We already have loans set up. The state will take the money. [I've] got to talk to the bank and find out how to pay it back."
The remediation process won't affect business. The station will stay open while another company works to remove the gasoline from the soil.
That process could take anywhere from between two weeks to two years depending on the extent of the leak. Soil samples will be tested continuously until no sign of gasoline is detected.