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Gas station storage tanks threaten groundwater

July 7, 2010 12:02:31 AM PDT
Throughout the state, dozens of abandoned and closed gas stations have been leaking contaminants into the soil and threatening groundwater for years. Three of those hazardous sites are in the Bay Area. On Tuesday, the State Water Resource Control Board authorized more than $3 million to kick-start the cleanup.

"It was never a nice station. It was always a dump," said Fremont resident Norma Broussard.

Broussard described a Beacon gas station that was located on Peralta Street in Fremont, right behind her home. It's now an empty lot and the ground below is contaminated with gas, diesel fuel, and MTBEs that leaked out of the tanks for untold years.

"I think it's ridiculous, and if it's seeping into the drinking water. Hello! That's worse than ridiculous. We live here, we're affected," said Broussard.

The site in Fremont, one in East Palo Alto on East Bayshore Boulevard, and another in Concord are just three of 55 gas stations in the state that have been targeted for $3 million. The money from a two-cents a gallon gas tax will be used to clean up what are called "orphan sites" -- closed or abandoned gas stations.

"We tried to get the owners to step up to the plate and to date, they haven't, and that's why we pursued the route to the state," said Walter Wandow, general manager from the Alameda County Water District.

Wandow says when the owners of these gas stations won't or cannot afford to clean up the sites, water districts had to turn to the state for help.

The gas tanks were buried 15 feet deep. Alameda County is concern is that the pollution they have found at that level could go even deeper and possibly affect the groundwater.

"...Or really the steward of the groundwater basin. And while, there is no immediate threat to drinking water, eventually over time, that kind of contamination could migrate into the groundwater," said Wandow.

Alameda County will now receive $100,000 this year, and perhaps the same amount for four more years from state and federal stimulus money, to investigate and clean up the site.

San Mateo and Contra Costa counties will also get the same amount.


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