MDEQ investigating gasoline leak in Pass Christian

MDEQ investigating gasoline leak in Pass Christian

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - A mysterious odor rising from a vacant lot in Pass Christian led to an underground discovery.

A police officer was driving by the site Monday night when he smelled gas fumes. Officers and firefighters who responded noticed gasoline coming out of the ground.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality was called in to investigate.

"There was a visible sheen on the water. You could smell the presence of gasoline," said MDEQ on-scene coordinator Nick Hatten.

The strong fumes and gasoline seeped from a private lot at Emerald Dr. and Hwy. 90. Hatten said firefighters immediately placed containment booms around the site to prevent the leak from reaching a nearby storm drain.

"We came out this morning and noticed the pads were super saturated. We got rid of those booms. We put new booms out, and I did discover there was a fill neck. Upon digging that out, we did discover an underground storage tank," said Hatten.

Hatten believes the tank holds around 6,000 gallons.

"I don't know how much pure gasoline will be in the tank. With all the rain we've had, it's probably gasoline mixed with water," said Hatten.

Around noon Tuesday, a vacuum truck pulled in to pump out the old gasoline, which is considered a flammable material.

"The threat is being physically removed and there is no danger to the community," said Hatten.

Hatten suspects heavy equipment working on the lot probably ruptured the tank's fill line.

"Probably had intrusion of groundwater, and the groundwater floated the petroleum product to the surface," Hatten said.

Hatten does not know why the tank remains buried on the property. According to the MDEQ, a Conoco gas station once stood on the site, but it shut down in 2004. The agency said when the business closed, the tank should have been removed.

"If you've turned into the DEQ a closure plan and that closure plan did have physical removal of the underground storage tanks, and you've turned it into our department and it is not right, that is falsification of documentation," said Hatten.

Hatten said the MDEQ's Underground Storage Tank Division is investigating to determine if there are other tanks in the ground, who is responsible, and any possible penalties.

He does not know when the leak actually started or how much gasoline escaped from the tank.

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