Problems from gasoline spill in Washington County far from over

CREATED Jul 30, 2012 - UPDATED: Jul 30, 2012

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TOWN OF JACKSON- More than 70 homes' private water wells are already at risk of contamination and environmental experts won't be surprised if the number grows in the Town of Jackson.
 
"I've heard of plumes this size that can travel upwards of a mile or more," said D'Arcy Gravelle.

He's a professional geologist with Key Engineering Group, a company that specializes in environmental engineering and science.
 
The challenge in the Town of Jackson is figuring out which way 55,000 gallons of gasoline traveled after a spill on July 17.
 
"It's a challenge because of the type of rock it is. It's a limestone bedrock. It's highly fractured. And the water will flow within the fractures so the fractures head in one direction, than they head in another that water can take a 90 degree turn," explained Gravelle.
 
That limestone will also make removing the gasoline from the ground difficult.
 
"It's going to be near impossible to get out over any reasonable period of time."
 
Gravelle's boss, Ken Wein, is the CEO of Key Engineering Group.  While they're not involved in this project, Wein said homeowners should prepare their patience, because it will be a long process of getting all the answers they want.
 
"You're trying to identify something that's in the sub surface right now and you're trying to determine just where it's gone and where it's going…it's not going to be a quick solution," said Wein.
 
Wein said the recovery of the gasoline will be "difficult at best," given his expertise.  He says it will be all the more challenging to determine the actual volume of gasoline that was released if it's already in the bedrock.
 
That's concerning to Rebecca Falbo whose water is now being tested for the dangerous chemical benzene.  Her biggest concern is her children.
 
"You know they've been showering in it, drinking it up until last Thursday.  They showered (Sunday) until I realized that benzene can seep through their skin. I've actually taped the faucets so they can't even touch the faucets."
 
Another concern is the vapors of benzene getting inside your house.  One way it can enter is through your sump pump. It has the potential to cause a fire or explosion at high levels.
 
"And there's a lot of ignition sources in the basement like pilot for your furnace, water heater, that type of thing," Gravelle explained. "Even a sump pump is not completely contained. It's not electrically compatible for vapor so an arc that comes off a sump pump could cause an ignition."
 
It's a terrifying thought for Falbo.
 
"You don't know what you're going to home to; if you're going to have a home when you come home from work."
 
Gravelle said if the DNR found a sump pump to be the pathway for vapors, there are options.
 
"They can seal them, ventilate them, and monitor them to see what's going on in soil vapor in basements."
 
Then, there are the long term concerns of water quality.  Both Gravelle and Wein believe the area will need another type of water supply for the long haul to be safe.