Gasoline spill at Sheetz ends up in run
A gasoline overflow at the Sheetz Service Station in Berkeley Springs caused firefighters from Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon and Hancock to quickly contain the spill and prevent a fire last week.
The spill occurred around 11 p.m. on Monday, November 12, while the operator of a tanker truck was filling one of the underground gasoline storage tanks, said Captain Marshall Younker of the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department.
Younker said he didn’t know the exact cause of the leak, but believed some kind of mechanical system failure had taken place.
“It could have been very devastating,” Younker said.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reported that 350 gallons of gasoline were spilled, most of it entering Warm Springs Run across U.S. 522.
Efforts to contain spill
Younker said firemen first constructed a dam of loose dirt in the park to try and contain the spilled fuel. But with the rain that night and the amount of gasoline, the dam didn’t hold.
Firemen then tried to get ahead of the leak as it headed down stream. They checked at Jimstown Road, but the smell of gasoline was already there, so they headed to Sand Mine Road where an underflow dam was hastily constructed.
The underflow dam allows water to flow underneath while trapping the gasoline that floats on top of the water.
The dam was constructed with a dump truck and loader provided by the West Virginia Division of Highways and material provided by U.S. Silica.
The 911 Emergency Communications Center notified all parties immediately. Representatives of the State Department of Environmental Protection, Washington County’s Special Operations hazmat team, Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, Berkeley Springs Water Department and Warm Springs Public Service District were all on scene, Younker said.
“Sheetz was very quick to respond and called in two cleanup crews.” he said.
The environmental cleanup crews placed booms in the stream to soak up the gasoline and prevent it from traveling further downstream.
The bulk of the spill was cleaned up by 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
With public safety in mind, firemen used gas meters to monitor potentially explosive vapors in buildings near the stream along Fairfax and Washington streets.
The Department of Environmental Protection has issued an order requiring Sheetz to continue cleanup procedures and to analyze onsite and offsite conditions to determine if additional measures are needed.
Warm Springs Watershed Association members Kate Lehman, Norman Dean and Stan Oaks walked the run between the Sheetz store and the Board of Education offices on Harrison Avenue on Tuesday morning.
“The smell of gasoline was strong and one could see the familiar sheen on the surface of the water,” Lehman said.
The three saw about 50 dead fish, mostly minnows. Berkeley Springs State Park Maintenance Supervisor J.J. Steiner also reported dead minnows in the park.
“It appeared to be a combination of human error and equipment failure,” DEP Environmental Inspector David Nesbitt of the Romney office said Tuesday, November 20.
Nesbitt explained a ball in the underground tank that is supposed to float up and stop the flow of gasoline when the tank is full was improperly installed and failed to operate.
He said another contributing factor was the truck driver was new.
“The driver was at the truck when the leak occurred and did shut off the truck and run into the station to shut off the pump,” Nesbitt said, “but by that time the fuel had run down the pavement into the storm drain.”