It was discovered 22 years ago that three underground gasoline tanks at a now defunct gas station on the Deuce of Clubs in Show Low were leaking. Despite the state’s intervention and two years of work to try and clean it up, the dirt is still dirty.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) approved a plan to clean up the site 13 years ago, but in January of this year, eight years after the work was stopped, the proposed cleanup process was deemed to have been a failure and ADEQ decided to terminate the “Corrective Action Plan.” The actual work had gone on from March 2008 until May 2010 and, according to an ADEQ public notice, the “concentrations of petroleum constituents of concern were not significantly reduced” which resulted in the ADEQ decision to drop the corrective action plan.
The site in question, is at 421 W. Deuce of Clubs, where there was a Thriftway Plateau store. The store had three leaking gas tanks: a 10,000 gallon tank and two 6,000 gallon tanks.
According to ADEQ officials, the next steps are to meet with the “responsible party” and work out a “more aggressive” plan of action.
“In the meantime, there is continued groundwater sampling,” wrote Erin Jordan with ADEQ. “The purpose of terminating the original CAP was to move forward with a more aggressive remedial method to get the site to closure.”
Chemicals commonly found in the soil at leaky gas tank sites include carcinogens such as benzene and toluene.
Exposure to toluene has been shown to cause damage to the kidney, liver, brain, heart and nervous system.
Long term exposure to Benzene is known to cause cancer.
One of the primary risks from a Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) is that the toxic chemicals will invade groundwater supplies or contaminate wells. In the case of Show Low, however, that risk is likely lessened as the city’s 14 wells are between 800 and 900 feet deep.
There is, however, exposure risks to children or others who come in extensive contact with contaminated soil.
There are currently three other sites in Show Low with leaking fuel tanks that are not cleaned up and the cases are not closed:
• Show Low Quick Stop, 6934 Highway 260, leak discovered in December 2011;
• Center Tire/Wagon Wheel Exxon, 1740 East Deuce of Clubs, leak discovered in February 1994; and,
• Giant #6633, 331 West Deuce of Clubs, leak discovered in October 1996.
ADEQ lists 52 fuel tanks discovered with leaks in Show Low going back to the late ‘80s.
Since the federal government began compiling reports of leaking fuel tanks in 1988, there have been 543,812 confirmed leaks with 478,366 cleanups successfully completed nationwide. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that cleanups have been initiated at 522,801 sites – no action has been taken on 21,011 known leaking tanks.
Pinetop-Lakeside has, according to ADEQ, had 25 sites with leaking fuel tanks over the last 30 years. The cases on three sites remain open:
• Circle K at 1654 W. White Mountain Blvd, leak discovered in November 1995;
•Two tanks at Southwest Transmission, 1318 E. White Mountain Blvd, leak discovered in February 2000; and
• Lakeside Bell, 3557 W. White Mountain Blvd., leak discovered in September 2018.
In Apache County, ADEQ lists two open cases:
• The Apache County Road Department, 405 W 4th N. Street in St. Johns, leak discovered in January 1991; and
• Alpine Garage, Highway 180 in Alpine, leak discovered in December 2013.
In the spring of 2010, contractor MACTEC of Phoenix was hired to excavate the St. Johns road yard and “treat” the problem with a dose of diluted hydrogen peroxide which is supposed to “instantly” convert the gasoline contamination to water and carbon dioxide. The contamination at the site started at a depth of 20 feet and extended to around 45 feet. The work at the St. Johns’ site was paid for by the Arizona Assurance Fund, a pool of money administered by the ADEQ.
The federal government provides funding and in some cases enforcement on leaking underground storage tanks. Funding is available from the LUST Trust Fund in cases where the owner is unknown, unwilling or unable to pay for cleanup. The funds are collected from everyone who buys gasoline at the rate of a tenth-of-cent per gallon. In fiscal year 2018, motorists contributed $92 million to the fund.