Storage tank removal opens property for development

Out with the old?now?and in with the new?someday. That?s the upshot of the week-long project at the corner of South Main and A streets last week in Hills?boro.

Five underground tanks were removed near the old filling station, and an adjacent detached service garage was razed last week by Stone Sand Co. of Great Bend.

Stone Sand was sub-contracted for the job by GeoCore Inc., a Salina-based company that provides drilling and environmental services throughout the central states region.

GeoCore, in turn, was hired by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to excavate the tanks as part of its ongoing effort to remove abandoned underground fuel-storage tanks around the state.

Most of the old tanks, including these in Hillsboro, sometimes reach groundwater level for towns or rural areas.

?We are in the business of cleaning up contaminated sites likes this for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment,? said Brad Oentrich, the on-site project manager and a environmental scientist with GeoCore.

?We don?t do a lot of these dig outs anymore because there getting more far and few between.?

The Hillsboro tanks had been leaking, but there was no evidence that gasoline had leached into the ground water, according to Oentrich.

The push to remove underground storage tanks was launched more than a decade ago. According to a spokesperson at KDHE, the state agency has about 1,400 sites it works on annually and about 40 new sites per year.

This project, budgeted for up to $80,000 and funded through the Obama administration?s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, required an excavation of 40 feet by 80, and 20 feet deep, according to Oentrich said.

The contaminated dirt was trucked by Stone Sand to a field east of Hillsboro, where it will be ?remediated??a process where the dirt is spread thinly so the gasoline can vaporize as it is worked up by tilling equipment.

?No contaminated dirt comes back (to the hole),? Oentrich said. ?It will be backfilled with clean gravel and capped with clean clay-type soils. Then the surface will be repaired to existing conditions.?

All but five feet of the hole was filled with gravel, followed by a 4-foot layer of sand and then capped with one more foot of gravel.

In with the new

Locally, the project was important to Hillsboro Ford, which has acquired the property as it works toward a long-term goal of consolidating its sales lots along the 100 block of West A Street, according to owners Terry Hagen and Randy Hagen.

Even though the two projects are related, KDHE project manager Amelia Springer said the timing of the tank removal was mostly coincidental.

?It?s been one of the sites we?ve had in the works for a long time, and all we needed was money to fund it,? Springer said. ?It was in the works before I even knew (the Hagens) had acquired the property. We were glad to hear that somebody was going to develop the property.?

The property had been foreclosed upon several years ago by the Internal Revenue Service.

Springer said most tank removals are funded through KDHE?s Storage Tank Trust Fund, which gets is revenue from the sales tax on vehicle fuels.

The property owner pays a deductible for the removal project, and the fund covers the rest of the expense.

In this case, with no private owner, the project was put on hold until other funding sources could be found. Obama?s stimulus bill provided the funding.

Long-term goal

The Hagens said they don?t have a particular timeline in mind for developing the property.

The filling station building, believed to be built in 1934, is being considered as an on-site sales office. But Randy Hagen said they are still evaluating how much it would cost to restore the structure.

He said the old building has generated a lot of public interest, with many requests that the brothers restore it.

?We have to figure out if it makes financial sense to do that,? Randy said.

Hillsboro Ford currently maintains a used-car lot along D Street. The Hagens said consolidating at one location would have a lot of benefits for the business, as well as aiding the downtown business district.

Randy Hagen their clients are close to shops and restaurants as they wait for a vehicle repair or have inquired about the purchase of a new car.

?It?s a goal of ours (to consolidate downtown), but we don?t have a deadline for when that might happen,? Terry Hagen said.

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