A gas leak that brought an Essex Junction shopping center to a standstill may have been much worse than first thought. It was discovered in May, but state officials say it may have been going on for months.
State officials say the Gulf Gas Station has likely been leaking gas since February and that records show a monthly inventory loss since then. The Agency of Natural Resources is now estimating 2,600 gallons may have leaked into the surrounding soil.
The property owner, Dave Simendinger, says the state is exaggerating. He puts the number closer to 50 gallons.
On May 24 business owners at the Post Office Square shopping plaza in Essex Junction smelled a strong odor of gasoline coming from the parking lot. Eight fire and rescue crews-- including a state hazmat team-- responded to the scene. More than 15 businesses were evacuated, but were allowed to open up shop the following day.
State officials, however, are not convinced it was a minor spill from a fuel delivery as the gas station owner alleges. Last week the Agency of Natural Resources got an emergency order from the state environmental court to stop Dave Simendinger's operations at the Gulf. He was ordered to drain his tanks and remove them and any contaminated soil from the ground within five business days. That work is starting Tuesday morning.
But Simendinger says he's being targeted. His tanks are 30-year-old single-walled, fiberglass tanks. He argues the state wants suppliers to switch to double-walled tanks.
The state says 2,600 gallons is a serious spill and it's critical they fix the source of the leak. Once the tanks come completely out of the ground Wednesday Simendinger and the state will have a better idea of how much gas has leaked.
Simendinger is complying with the order. And it is not clear if he could face any penalties.
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