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Gas cleanup leaves neighbors gagging

Some West Glenwood Springs residents, and a business owner, have found themselves on opposite sides of a smelly rock and a noisy hard spot.The noise and smell come from a state-mandated gasoline cleanup project at the Tomahawk Auto Truck Plaza on the Highway 6 & 24 in West Glenwood.Some residents at the neighboring Machebeuf Apartments want Tomahawk’s operator to muffle the noise and odor coming from the project. The operator said he sympathizes with the residents, but said the state calls most of the shots in the cleanup effort.”We have little say as to what goes on out there,” said Calvin Hada, a partner in the company that operates the truck plaza. “We’ll be looking into residents’ concerns, though … We’ve been put into a big learning curve.”Hada said his company learned the ground below the truck plaza is soaked with gasoline that accumulated over the years, and the state ordered his company to clean it up.Clifford King, who works the graveyard shift at Wal-Mart, lives at Machebeuf Apartments his wife and three children. Their windows are about 20 yards from a small shed that houses cleanup equipment. When the equipment was fired up in early September, King noticed a strong gasoline odor one day when he was upstairs, trying to sleep.”I ended up throwing up,” King said. “It gets bad, but I’ve got to open the windows when it gets hot.”Then there’s the constant, rattling buzz from the equipment that runs inside the shed, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.King assessed the shed from the Machebeuf yard Tuesday afternoon. He pointed to the far side of the plaza and asked, “Why didn’t they put the shed on the other side of the building? They put it here because the utility box is right here.”Steve Annecone, an engineer with WMA Environmental Services, the cleanup contractor, said he expects the project to last 12 to 18 months. He said gasoline odors have already dropped dramatically, and he expects the decline to continue. Vapor levels coming from the site fall within state regulations, he said.Explaining the cleanup from his office in Boulder, Annecone said gasoline vapors are sucked from the ground, using a system of wells connected to a water injection system and a pair of blowers housed in the shed.”The vapors are extracted with a vacuum,” Annecone said.Sitting on a Machebeuf picnic table by the rail fence that separates the truck plaza from the apartments, King said the gasoline smells come in spurts.Tuesday afternoon, the smells were infrequent and faint. “But this ain’t nothing compared to what it can put out,” King said.The buzz from the shed could be easily heard 50 yards away at the east side of the Machebeuf yard.”I didn’t want to make trouble,” King said in a calm, even voice. “We don’t complain about it when their diesel trucks idle all night.”King said there has to be a compromise between Machebeuf residents and the truck plaza. He is seeking four remedies:-Shut down the cleanup equipment on weekends.-Install a filtering system to cut the gasoline odors.-Find a way to decrease noise from the shed.-Install a switch so truck plaza employees can shut down the equipment when it doesn’t automatically stop in the morning or evening as it’s designed to do.King said he is also disappointed that Hada and truck plaza officials didn’t talk with Machebeuf residents before starting the project.Hada replied, “In retrospect, I wish we’d communicated more, but this is the first cleanup I’ve been involved with.”Hada and Annecone said they will look into King’s requests. They already agreed to operate only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., rather than the cleanup industry norm of 24 hours per day. Hada said he’ll look into muffling the sound, which Annecone said could be done by spraying acoustic foam on the shed’s inside walls.Hada said the company will look into shutting down the cleanup operation on weekends, although Annecone said it might require longer operating hours during the week.Frequent power outages disrupt the automated equipment inside the shed, Hada said. Until now, truck plaza employees haven’t had keys to the shed or instructions on how to shut off the equipment when it fails to shut off at 8 p.m.”We’ll look into getting keys to employees so they can reset the equipment,” Hada said.Installing a filtering system to cut the gasoline smells coming from the project is probably too expensive, Annecone said. “That’s almost never done unless emission levels are exceeded,” Annecone said.Annecone said the equipment shed was placed there because a three-phase power source was close by. “It’s fairly expensive to move power,” Annecone said. There was also a limited amount of space to work with at the site without blocking traffic.Moving the shed isn’t completely out of the question, however.Dick Piper, director of the state agency that regulates gasoline cleanups, said such cleanup projects are funded by a surcharge on gasoline paid by distributors. Property owners, however, pay the first $10,000.When the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment mandates a cleanup, Piper said, the property owner must draft a plan that is economical and feasible. Piper said he can’t remember the last time his agency was asked to approve funding to move an equipment shed, but if the cleanup plan didn’t address the proximity of residents, “something might be done about it.”At the same time, the existing shed location might depend on technical considerations, such as the location of the gasoline plume below the ground.”It bothers me that we are bothering our neighbors,” Hada said.”We’ll try to do something about it.”


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