Underground storage tanks at the old Russ Auto Care site may have been removed in early April, but that didn't mean the area was entirely cleared out.
According to Mike Kortenhof, manager of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Underground Storage Tank Inspection program, work continued throughout the month to investigate contamination issues at the site — and inspectors also found two additional tanks on the property that were previously unaccounted for.
"It is fairly common to find tanks near the street at old facilities," Kortenhof said. "They probably pre-date the tanks that were removed in 1993. Our permit program was put in place in the 1980s to track and prevent further abandonments, but we continue to find them from times gone by."
According to geologist Marty Burck of Martin S. Burck Associates, Inc, those tanks contained what appeared to be used motor oil and gasoline residue. The soil around the newly discovered tanks will be sampled for contamination and the tanks will be decommissioned separately from the others, which have already been removed.
Contaminated gas tanks at the site were marked for decommissioning since the shop closed in 2014. As that process finally began, inspectors worked to determine if a newer set of tanks had leaked in the same way that old ones had in 1993.
The uncertainty regarding further leaks dates back to 2011, when DEQ performed an inspection at the site and found that while the newer tanks contained fuel, all monitoring equipment had been turned off. As a result, there was no way of knowing if another leak had occurred.
Property owner Elizabeth Stein was required to hire an outside party to complete the decommissioning process, and in the absence of that action DEQ issued a $4,384 fine to Stein in 2015. After going unpaid, that penalty was increased when November 2016 rolled around and the decommissioning was still not complete. Finally, Stein agreed to pay a portion of the fine and have the tanks removed by April 2017, with the understanding that she would be responsible for the full $10,791 penalty if she failed to do so.
Workers from Martin S. Burck Associates began the tank removal process Wednesday, April 5, and the work continued through April 7.
A "thin lens of discoloration with a faint PHC (petroleum hydrocarbon) odor" was found in soil at one end of the site.
"The contaminated soil tested relatively high and is being removed," Kortenhof said. "That may provide further information showing if the source is old or new."
Barring evidence of a current issue with exposure or contamination, Stein will be allowed to establish the schedule of the remaining site work.
As of May 1, DEQ was still waiting for a final decommissioning report for the original tanks as well as a removal plan for the two newly discovered tanks.