The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 26, 2014

DEP review: Closed gas station presents no danger

By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — A former gas station in Sharon shows no dangerous levels of contamination after a lengthy review by the state Department of Environmental protection.

The former Radkowski service station on the seven-acre parcel at North Water Avenue and Clark Street was closed years ago.

A contractor paid by the state removed three underground tanks in 2011 and notified the state Department of Environmental Protection that they had been leaking, said Kammy Halterman, environmental group manager for the storage tank section at the agency’s office in Meadville.

Discovery of leaking set off a process of sampling and analysis to determine what risks it might pose in the area that includes houses nearby on the West Hill and whether the site would have to be cleaned of contamination.

Last year, a contractor hired by DEP collected soil samples and sank six wells to monitor groundwater around the section of the site where the tanks had formerly been buried.

Analysis of soil and water samples found “very low levels” of trimethylbenzene, or TMB, a hydrocarbon that is a component of gasoline and other petroleum products, Halterman said.

A volatile compound, it evaporates quickly when it comes in contact with air. The TMB detected was found 10 to 12 feet below the surface near the top of the water table, Halterman said.

The chemical moves very slowly underground at the rate of about 25 feet in 30 years. Bacteria and other microorganisms break it down over time, making it unlikely that any contamination would reach the Shenango River, about 90 feet away from the site of the tanks.

“This stuff isn’t going anywhere,” she said. “Really, we are done.”

No cleanup will be required, she said.

The analysis asked whether anyone would be likely to come into contact with the contaminants and how they would be affected if they did. DEP specialists determined there is no significant risk from TMB to anyone walking through the area to go fishing in the river or playing on the site, Halterman said.

Residents and businesses in that area all get their water from Aqua Pennsylvania and no one is drawing water from private wells, she said.

The state cleanup program requires liens to be placed on the property so DEP can recover its costs later if the land is ever used for a profit-making venture.

Halterman said the contractor’s final bills haven’t been submitted and final reports remain to be written but she estimated total costs will fall between $50,000 to $100,000.

There are also requirements to consult DEP before any excavating can be done, she said.

County property records show the parcel is held under guardianship by Mercer County Area Agency on Aging Inc. because the elderly owner, who has since died, didn’t have money to pay for the environmental investigation.

In such cases, the state looks to public entities such as cities or school districts to take ownership of the land once any contamination is cleaned up, City Manager Scott Andrejchak said.

Sharon school officials have said they aren’t interested in the parcel.

The city’s problem is that it doesn’t have money right now to do anything with the property beyond fencing it and cutting the grass. Renovation of Bicentennial Park downtown already is straining city resources for recreation sites, he said.

Even if maintenance costs fall to the city, knowing the property is safe to use is a good thing, Andrejchak said.

“That’s one of the gateways to the city, so having the state pay to clean it up is positive even if the city can’t afford to do anything with it right now,” he said. “If we get it, we will work with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Sharon Beautification Commission and come up with a plan.”