By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
EAST LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP —
The spill resulted when a 275-gallon fuel tank sitting on the ground containing heating kerosene for one of the homes at Willow Bend Mobile Home Park began leaking, Gary Clark, community relations coordinator for DEP’s Meadville office, said Monday. He said the tank was filled in December but didn’t give an amount for how much may have leaked onto the property, nor did he identify the individual who owned the tank.
“The leak poured into the yard and it may be in the two water wells there,’’ Clark said. The wells provide drinking and other water needs to Willow Bend residents, he added.
As a precaution, park residents were told not to drink the water, Clark said.
DEP officials were at the site on Sunday and Monday and Clark said late Monday afternoon he was waiting to hear from field agents. Representatives from the state Fish and Boat Commission were also at the scene on Sunday.
The odor of kerosene could still be detected late Monday afternoon.
Hermitage Fire Department was called in Sunday as it has hazardous materials cleanup capabilities. The department used absorbent pads to suck up as much of the kerosene as it could, said Robert S. Goeltz, fire chief. He said the contaminated area was about 200 feet wide and 300 feet long.
“It was very visible, you could see the sheen it was making,’’ Goeltz said.
After volunteers worked several hours at the site, Goeltz said it’s now up to DEP to determine what, if any, further remediation is necessary. State officials were looking into whether kerosene entered a small stream near the property, he added.
Hermitage fire officials provided residents with 15 cases of bottled drinking water. The Red Cross was also on hand to help find shelter for two tenants who were told they shouldn’t spend the night in their homes, said Frank Janetti, director of Mercer County emergency services. He said Willow Bend has about 14 residences.
Willow Bend owner Harold Newton, who said he bought the property last year, said Monday that only about 30 gallons of kerosene leaked out.
“It’s just a little dirt contamination that has to be disposed of properly and we’re running tests on the water (wells) now,’’ Newton said. “For the most part, there is no immediate danger to anybody.’’
The owner of the mobile home where the tank leaked decided to spend the night at his trailer rather than going to a shelter offered by the Red Cross, Newton said.
Work on removing the contaminated dirt had already begun Monday, Newton said.
Goeltz disputed Newton’s 30-gallon leak figure, saying the normal acceptable threshold for a leak requiring hazmat remediation is 55 gallons or more.
“The puddling of kerosene in the area where it drained off was far more than 30 gallons,’’ Goeltz said. “In some places it was four to six inches deep.’’ A separate area probably contained another 10 to 20 gallons, he said.
“We wouldn’t have gone through all the effort if we had felt there wasn’t a problem,’’ he said.