Federal, tribal and city workers are investigating the cause of a possible gasoline leak in Plummer.
An EPA response team is working with Plummer officials and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to locate the source of a suspected oil leak in the city. While drinking water has not been affected, several businesses decided to close temporarily after reporting strong vapors that raised safety concerns.
“I’ve been told there does seem to be some sort of leak of petroleum,” Brooks Stanfield, section chief for the EPA’s emergency response in Region 10, said. “We believe it to be gasoline based on the vapor levels we’ve been seeing.”
The source of the leak is currently believed to be an underground gasoline tank, as no above-ground tanks are present in the area. Plummer has three fuel stations within that rough search area. Since the sites exist on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, the EPA has jurisdiction over the investigation.
Mr. Stanfield said that the EPA was first advised of the possible leak around Dec. 18, and has been on site since that time investigating the source. He said their search area is currently centered within two to three blocks of the local Zip’sDrive-in, which reported a strong odor and has been closed to business since that time.
“There have been some vapor levels in a couple of local businesses that have caused them to request some air monitoring activities,” he said. “The local fire department has done some of that, and since we responded we’ve done some of that as well.”
Mr. Stanfield said that the most recent measurements indicate vapor levels were on the decline in those areas. The drive-in has since re-opened.
City workers also reported the potential leak after reservoirs in their wastewater treatment plant started to display an oil sheen, coupled with a strong odor of gasoline at the facility. Due to advanced age, some of Plummer’s wastewater pipes allow ground water to seep in over time during high-moisture periods. The city has been working to replace those systems over several years.
Despite this, Mr. Stanfield said that the intrusion is limited to the city’s wastewater, and has not affected the drinking water in any way.
EPA teams are sampling soil and air in the area to determine concentrations of fuel, narrowing down the potential source of the leak. According to Mr. Stanfield, the party determined to be responsible will take on the cost of cleanup and repairs to their fuel tanks.
“When we find the source, we’ll be working with whomever the owner is to identify how they can take action to address it,” Mr. Stanfield said. “One of the reasons we’re there is to find the source, and if there’s no responsible party, we’d have the authority to take action ourselves.”