Drills and remediation crews have replaced cars and paying customers at the North End Deli Mart in Barre.
"Mostly what we're smelling right now is the petroleum that's coming up out of the sewer," said Richard Spiese, a hazmat specialist with the Vt. Waste Management Division.
Two days after the Sunoco station owned by Wesco Oil reported missing 3,000 gallons of super unleaded, crews are left cleaning up the massive underground leak.
"The drill rig that you see across the street is putting in boring right now. We're going to put what's called a multiphase extraction system on and that will recover groundwater, petroleum as free phase and vapor phase petroleum," Spiese said.
Hazmat officials say the material will be collected and treated. Sewers are being vented to prevent vapors from reaching residential basements. The leak is being blamed on a mechanical failure. The line that would have been pressurized when a customer was pumping premium or mid-grade was leaking. The line leak detector failed, and because of a grandfather clause, the station was not required to have a sump alarm under its dispenser.
"Hazmat officials are now getting a better idea of just how far this contamination has spread. They are estimating that the gasoline plume has traveled from the dispensers several hundred feet across the road. Officials believe it may have reached the banks of the Winooski River, but there's no evidence the petroleum got into the water.
"As far as how long this work will go on, it will be this active at least through parts of next week and the cleanup will be going on for probably years," Spiese said.
Crews do not plan to excavate the road or the contaminated soil beneath it. It's too expensive. Cleanup costs are already expected to top $100,000. Wesco will pay one-tenth of the bill and the Petroleum Cleanup Fund will cover the rest. Meanwhile, state officials are investigating whether Wesco did anything wrong.
"It could have been caught sooner if they were looking at the inventory records because they were losing a significant amount of product. They should have caught that," said Gary Kessler, of the Vt. Natural Resources Agency.
ANR says the dispenser was likely leaking for months. The question becomes when did Wesco realize it and was it reported in a timely fashion? Finding those answers could take weeks. Testing at the station is expected to wrap up in the next couple of days. If the system is shown to be tight, Wesco could get the OK to reopen as soon as next week.