Barre deals with major underground gasoline leak - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Barre deals with major underground gasoline leak

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BARRE, Vt. -

After three weeks off chasing mystery odors in residential homes in Barre's north end, city fire officials have located the source of the smell. They say a significant underground leak at a gasoline station off North Main Street is to blame.

"It is a lot of gasoline, there's no question," said David Simendiger, who owns North End Deli Mart.

Simendinger told officials Tuesday he was missing roughly 3,000 gallons of gasoline. He says that's the worst-case scenario and explains the leak was caused by a mechanical failure in the gasoline pump. A metal fitting blew off the dispenser for super unleaded, and since that grade of gasoline is not his top seller, the problem went undetected for a few weeks.

"I want to apologize to anybody who has been impacted by this. We're truly sorry for this incident," Simendinger said.

Hazmat crews are now venting surrounding sewers by opening up manhole covers until a contactor can setup a proper ventilation system. The gasoline leached into the soil and sewer, but was stopped before contaminating drinking water and the stormwater system.

"Now it's investigation mode. ECS-- the contractor-- is going to do some test bores. They are going to go through the city and identify where the plume has gone," Barre City Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Aldsworth said.

Officials say it's too early to estimate the extent of contamination. Test results are expected by the end of the week and they'll help the team determine if the area needs to be aerated or excavated. No word on what that may cost. The good news-- although gasoline is highly flammable, the leak never reached dangerous levels.

"Based on what we found today, working backwards, I would say there was no risk to a fire or an explosion," said Chris Herrick, the Vt. Hazmat chief.

Residents were warned, but no one was evacuated. Officials say the health risks from a leak like this are also low.

"At this point in time we don't believe there's gasoline exposures in the homes that would be responsible for either acute effects or significant amount of chronic effect," said Dr. William Irwin, the Vermont Radiological & Toxicological Sciences chief.

Residents of the city's north end are encouraged to call the fire department if they continue to smell gasoline in their homes.

A meeting is being held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Barre City Hall to give the public more information.

Fire officials say ANR is investigating. The pumps were last inspected in April and they passed.

You may remember the owner's name. David Simendinger was linked to another gas spill at his station in Essex last year. The state says his tanks leaked thousands of gallons of gas into the soil. He maintains his pumps were overpumping.

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