Diesel spill cleanup to take days

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Cold temperatures may be to blame for an underground diesel spill that contaminated a Henrico lake. It happened at Lake Hening, which is a small body of water near the main government complex on Parham Road.

Just after 10:00 in the morning, somebody took one glance at Lake Hening, and knew that's "not" what it's supposed to look like. To the experts, the reddish, burnt-orange colors could mean only one thing: diesel, and lots of it. The fuel was traced back to a leaky underground tank, a half-mile upstream at public safety headquarters. Crews did everything they could to block the flow, but by then...the damage was done. The question would be: how bad did it get?

"There's no indication that it's made it into any public water supplies, so we feel confident about that," said Capt. Chris Buehren of the Henrico Division of Fire.

The ensuing cleanup would take hours, and is expected to continue long into the week. Pads would soak up the fuel as quickly as they could be thrown in the water. Onlookers could only assume the cold weather was a factor.

"It's hard to say. You get the ground freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, pipes and all that underneath the ground, we're still trying to determine what the actual cause of the leak was," Buehren said.

As the day went on, authorities denied any contamination to public water. The leaky tank was dug up and replaced. But Lake Hening remained a discolored, pungent retention pond for hundreds of gallons of spilled diesel.

"It's gonna have to be pumped out and cleaned and dug. Any contaminated soil has to be dug out," Buehren said.

The 4,000 gallon underground diesel tank is used to store fuel for an emergency generator. It was not in use at the time. Cleanup has been turned over to a private contractor, who must pump out the bad water, and dig up all of the contaminated dirt. An exact cost estimate was not immediately available. But it won't likely be cheap.

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