Family Drinks, Bathes in Gas-Contaminated Water

March 16, 2001

A Redmesa, Colo., family reported that their water has been contaminated with gasoline that may have leaked from the nearby Mesa Mercantile gas station.

Mark and Becky Chesnut began noticing a "hint" of gasoline in December 1999. By March 2000, it had turned into a strong smell and water irritated their skin. The Chesnut used the well water for drinking, bathing, etc.

"We were bathing in it, we were drinking it, we were showering in it--you couldn’t even stand in the shower five minutes, you had to keep your eyes tightly closed because it would burn," she said.

In May, the Chesnuts took a water sample to Acculabs Inc., an environmental and analytical testing lab based in Durango.

Test results showed above-normal amounts of MTBE and Benzene, said John Green, lab director at Acculabs. Test reports show there were 2,300 ppb of MtBE in those samples. Test reports also show 940 ppb of benzene, which has a MCL of 5 ppb.

The closely and allegedly only source of gas was an underground gas tank at the Mesa station, which was only 100 yards from the residence.

In July, the Fraley and Co., Inc., the Cortez company that owns the gas tanks below the service stations, began testing the perimeter of the gas station for leaks. Results showed the leak had been contained on the property and there was no contamination on the perimeter of the property, said David Fraley, the company’s president.

Fraley said there is no conclusive evidence that the Chesnuts’ water well was contaminated because of the leaky tank.

Bill Monheiser, an environmental scientist in the groundwater division of the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, said the only reasonable source for MtBE and Benzene to occur together is from a leaking tank.

In October, both underground tanks were removed and replaced, Fraley said. The tanks were removed in order to update the whole system all at once, Fraley said.

Both tanks had holes--one of which may have been caused during excavation, he said.

Source:

Colorado <I>Durango Herald</i>

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