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Clean-up progressing on Firestone building

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Series of pipes force air underground to purify soil

By Linda Ireland

After many years of delays, the state is cleaning up the soil and groundwater contamination at the old Firestone building at 803 S. Lincoln Blvd.

The site once held three underground storage tanks for retail gasoline sales. The tanks were removed in 1998, according to Trent Garrison, state reviewer and geologist, Corrective Action Section, Underground Storage Tank Branch, Division of Waste Management. At that time, “elevated constituent concentrations were encountered” in the excavation – both in soil and groundwater, according to a DWM report.

The soil contamination has been removed, Garrison said. Several monitoring wells show groundwater is still contaminated but is cleaner after undergoing a process called capillary fringe oxygenation.

Capillary fringe refers to the water in the subsoil level. A system of PVC pipes and pumps injects air underground (into the capillary) which speeds the purification process, Garrison said. Gasoline, since it is less dense than water, floats on water where it can be extracted. The process will continue until the contamination reaches acceptable levels.

“When you add oxygen to the groundwater, it allows microorganisms … to break down the contamination,” said Patrick Segers, a supervisor with NSS, the Louisville-based company handling the cleanup. The contamination “becomes food” for the microorganisms and is destroyed. The pumps pull remaining vapors from the soil. The process is checked quarterly and appears to be working.

“It’s taken a long time to get where we are,” said Segers. “It’s all driven by funding.”

So far, about $200,000 has been spent to clean up the site, Garrison said. It is funded through the state’s gasoline tax. Up to $1 million is allocated to each contaminated site. More than 2,000 contaminated sites exist in Kentucky.

Segers said he anticipates the Firestone clean-up will be finished within a year.

The ongoing process does not affect the owner’s ability to sell the property or develop it. The Environmental Protection Agency keeps documentation so the new owner will be aware of the site’s past.

“When the site is cleaned up, we issue a ‘no further action’ letter,” Garrison said.

“It’s a nice piece of property and I know someone will want it,” said Segers. “We might have to move the power poles but it could be developed.”

Besides being labeled a contaminated site due to leaky underground tanks, the Firestone building is considered an eyesore. The sorry state of the building, with its collapsed roof and broken windows has been discussed by Hodgenville City Council numerous times. However, last year, the council declined the opportunity to demolish the building after being given permission by owners Rick and Kim Newton of Elizabethtown.