Cleanup of an overflowing underground oil tank that the federal Environmental Protection Agency deemed a “substantial threat to public health, welfare, and the environment” was completed completed Thursday.
The approximately 500-gallon tank was seven feet underground at a former gas station at 550 West College St., near the intersection of State Rt. 511 and South Pyle-Amherst Road.
In addition to motor oil, the tank contained toxic chemicals including barium, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, exceeding 50 parts per million, according to documents from the Ohio EPA, which forwarded the cleanup to the federal EPA. PCBs are toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that include benzene and chlorine.
“We can’t explain how PCBs got in there,” said Jim Augustyn, the U.S. EPA on-scene coordinator who supervised the cleanup. “Typically, you don’t see PCBs in these kind of waste oil tanks.”
Oil from the site seeped into a storm drain during a rainfall in July of last year, according to the documents. Firefighters used booms and pads to absorb the oil.
Despite the leak, oil in the five-foot-tall tank is not believed to have contaminated Oberlin’s water supply, said Augustyn and assistant fire chief Susan Hiesser.
Overflow from the tank was detected in August 2013 by a person at the site who was considering buying the property, Hiesser said. While the tank overflowed, she said it wasn’t punctured and seepage was primarily in the parking lot of the site.
Augustyn said the area was inspected by the State Fire Marshal’s Office Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulation workers. They determined the tank was overfull and summer heat caused seepage.
The tank and sludge from it were excavated and removed by an EPA contractor on Sept. 12, Hiesser said. The area was back-filled with crushed concrete.
Contaminated soil was placed in two lined, 20-cubic yard dumpsters. They were removed Thursday, Augustyn said.
The gas station has been closed for decades and the building was an H&R Block office before being abandoned. The property owner is Margot Weber of Sierra Madre, Calif., according to the documents.
The EPA had to get a federal court order to enter the property because they couldn’t reach Weber.
Weber owes $6,825 in taxes on the 1.45-acre property, according to the Lorain County Auditor’s Office. The total market value of the property is $75,790.
Augustyn said the cost of the cleanup was about $40,000 and will be paid for through the U.S. EPA’s Superfund. Created in 1980 by Congress, the fund pays for hazardous waste cleanups.
Augustyn said Weber will be billed for the cleanup but said it’s “highly unlikely” she will pay anything. He said the costs of placing a lien on the property and taking legal action might be more than the cleanup.
“Typically, we go down that road if we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, to clean up a property,” he said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune The former gas station at 511 West Lorain St. and a dumpster containing contaminated soil are shown on Sept. 21. Seepage from a 500-gallon underground tank, believed to contain motor oil and toxic chemicals, was cleaned up and removed from the site by a contractor for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.