Gasoline Leak

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Panola County Emergency Management Director Daniel Cole discusses the contamination problem Thursday night with members of a contract environmental crew while city workers release thousands of gallons of water through the sewer system to flush traces of gasoline that had seeped into the system. Mayor Jerry Autrey said Friday morning that the gasoline had been purged from the system but crews were still checking to see if it remained in the soil near the spill area. Panolian photo by John

Leaking gasoline flushed from lines

By Billy Davis

Gasoline that seeped into sewer lines in Batesville was completely flushed out late last week, ending any danger to the public.

Meanwhile, soil testing shows no environmental problems but is ongoing at the Huron Smith Oil Co. bulk plant where the spill originated.

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“The safety hazard has been removed,” Daniel Cole, director of Panola County Emergency Management, reported Monday. 

Using high-pressure fire hoses provided by the Batesville Fire Department, personnel flushed the lines Thursday with a neutralizing agent that breaks down the gasoline, he said.

At the bulk plant on Hays Street, between 1,200 and 2,000 gallons of gasoline leaked into sandy soil from a leaking hose, said Huron Smith owner Don Smith.

“We dodged a major bullet,” Smith said of the environmental problems caused by the spill.

Smith said he is cooperating with environment engineers from a Jackson firm who are boring into the soil to continue to test for contamination. The engineers are working closely with state and federal officials to report their findings, he said.

According to Cole, the leaking gasoline found its way into an old clay sewer pipe that was tied into the city’s newer sewer system. If the old pipe hadn’t existed, the gasoline would have gone deeper into the soil, and the entire site would have been removed to clean up the spill.

“Luckily the old pipe acted as a direct conduit for the sewer system,” Cole said. “If that pipe wasn’t there, we’d be digging up dirt, and two city streets would have been closed down for months.” 

Firefighters and police blocked streets in the area starting 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 at about 11 a.m., they also closed Hays Street from Thomas to Pearson.

Police evacuated as a precaution at least one day care center near the spill area. The Jesus Loves Me Daycare Center on Thomas Street notified parents about 2:30 p.m. that emergency officials had ordered the shutdown.

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey, describing the situation last week to The Panolian, 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.

Cole on Monday credited Smith for “owning up” to the spill and cooperating with the clean-up effort.

“He was very concerned about the public’s safety,” Cole said. “He did whatever he had to do to make it right.”

“The main thing is nobody got hurt,” Smith said.