Monday, January 28, 2008

Hidden Oil Tank in Downtown Austin

The Daily Texan reported on Friday that a 9000 gallon capacity railcar-turned-oil tanker that had been buried by the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin leaked over 4200 gallons of oil into Waller Creek. To the credit of local officials, the city quickly cleaned up the spill mitigating any short term effects from the spill, but apparently this incident caught everyone by surprise; the city was completely unaware that such a tank of oil existed in the area.

While we can really hope that this will be an isolated incident- after all, it really makes no sense to furrow away that kind of oil reserve- it is a little scary that little stockpiles of dirty fuel may be buried nearby. The railcar had been buried for over a century, when the average cost of gas was a mere 4 cents per gallon. Environmental specialist Stan Tindel expressed optimism in being able to find the owners of the reserve in order to fine them for the cleanup costs. I hope that officials are successful in their investigation, if only so we will know exactly what motivates a person to bury many thousands of gallons of fuel.

1 comment:

PiersW. said...

Underground fuel tanks are enormously common; especially if one considers that all gas stations bury their tanks. Most of these tanks, once burried, are never inspected, maintained, or recovered. I would assume that many fuel stations, particuarly the older ones, have associated leaks and contaminated soil. Unfortuantely, most of these will go undetected.

I worked on the clean-up of two such underground fuel tank leakages. One of these spills had occurred over many years and managed to get into the groundwater. It was necessary to drill water wells, pump and clean the water (remove the diesel), manage surface run-off and construct water impoundment structures, remove ALL of the contaminated dirt (80,000+ CuYd), in addition to fines, negative publicity, and public hearings.

Both of the clean-up projects were enormously time and material intensive and ultimately very expensive.