Gasoline Leak

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2008

Firemen and police have blocked Van Voris from Thomas to Pearson Street and Vance Street from Hays Street to Lester Street. Pearson Street is also blocked from Van Voris to Hays Street.

Streets in area remain closed


By John Howell

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Authorities late Thursday morning located a gasoline leak at the Huron Smith Oil Company bulk plant that had allowed the liquid fuel to seep into the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Firemen and police blocked Van Voris from Thomas to Pearson Street and Vance Street from Hays Street to Lester Street. Pearson Street was also blocked from Van Voris to Hays Street through much of Thursday morning while they attempted to locate the origin of the gasoline in the sewer pipes. Upon the discovery of the source of the leak at the oil company’s bulk plant, they also closed Hays Street from Thomas to Pearson.

“We’re trying to keep them closed off; there’s still a lot of fumes,” Batesville Police Chief Tony Jones said.

Panola County Emergency Management Director Daniel Cole said that United States Environmental Service (USES) personnel and equipment were called “to help make it safe again and hopefully help us identify the source.”

Local officials were seeking advice from USES and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality officials about how best to flush potentially explosive gasoline fumes from sewer pipes.

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey said that a small amount of gasoline seepage into the sewer system was first noticed late Wednesday afternoon at the sewage treatment plant.

Thursday morning city workers found that gasoline had accumulated in a lift station on Martin Luther King Street and notified the mayor.

“I told them we needed to get everybody,” Autrey said.

By mid-morning Batesville firemen and equipment, officials of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Batesville police, Cole, Panola Sheriff Hugh “Shot” Bright and the mayor were conferring near the Van Voris and Pearson Street intersections, awaiting USES’s arrival.

Millard Davis of Huron Smith Oil Company arrived at Crowson’s Convenience Store and gas station with a folding rod that allowed him to determine the amount of gasoline in the storage tanks buried beneath the parking lot. The smell of gasoline permeated the air, but Davis’ measurements indicated no gasoline missing from Crowson’s tanks.

Custom Sign Company owner William Burns and workers from his company arrived shortly after Davis’ measurements. Burns opened access covers to fuel lines leading from Crowson’s underground tank to its fuel pumps to investigate further. However, the source of the leak proved to be a large, diagonal block away.

“If it had been a couple of months ago when gas was almost $5 a gallon, this wouldn’t have happened, Batesville Fire Chief Tim Taylor quipped.

By mid-morning, the smell of chicken frying inside Crowson’s in preparation for lunch customers had overpowered the smell of the leaked gasoline.