by Kate Shunney
Excavation work at the old Mechem’s gas station in Great Cacapon has been paused as state environmental officials say more cleanup and sampling work is needed at the site.
An underground storage tank that used to serve the gas station was removed in November 2022 as part of a settlement agreement with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The tank pit, in front of the old gas station along Cacapon Road, had been left open but was filled in over the last few days.
In a 2019 settlement with the DEP, the Mechems agreed to dig up the tank to resolve several DEP violations.
The settlement, which dismissed a civil action against the Mechems, said the owners of the gas station had failed to pay their underground storage tank fees, failed to ensure that individuals responsible for the tank had the proper training under state law, failed to show they could pay for corrective action for a failure of the underground gas tank, failed to monitor the tank and didn’t protect it from corrosion while it still contained fuel.
In order to resolve the violations, the owners were ordered to permanently and properly close all underground storage tanks on the site of the station by November 30, 2020. They also agreed to pay $1,650 in overdue registration fees for the tanks dating from 2010 to 2019. A civil penalty of $10,000 was held off, pending proper closure of the tank site.
The state has made an effort in the last decade to register and monitor underground storage tanks, which can leak chemicals into water aquifers, streams and rivers.
According to a DEP spokesperson, the Mechems were in default of this 2019 agreement, even though the deadlines for removal work and fee payment had been extended twice by an agreement between them and the state.
One extension came after a court hearing in which the DEP asked a judge to enforce the settlement agreement.
DEP officials told The Morgan Messenger that the tank pit has stayed open after the removal of the tank because further work is needed.
“Closure sampling has been delayed due to soil contamination and additional remediation is needed. The WVDEP is contacting the consultant to determine whether to further excavate the site now or to fill in the pit temporarily, with soil excavation to be planned at a later date,” said Terry Fletcher, DEP Chief Communications Officer.