Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Explosion probe eyes BP as source of gas in sewer

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Investigators have confirmed that the flammable substance which caused the explosion in the McDonald’s lift station shed early Wednesday morning was gasoline.

They have also established that the gasoline was infiltrating into the sanitary sewer system from the BP Amoco property on the north side of Indian Boundary Road.

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell told the Chesterton Tribune today that the gasoline apparently leached into the business’s sewer service lateral through cracks in the lateral’s joints and then followed the wastewater flow to the lift station, where its vapors gathered--possibly mixing with methane from the sewage itself--until finally being ignited by a spark thrown by the control panel.

The lateral has since been plugged, O’Dell said.

At issue now is whether the gasoline in question is old fuel or new fuel.

Some years ago a leak in the property’s underground tank was discovered, O’Dell said. That leak has long since been mediated and the tank removed from the ground but it’s possible that residual gasoline still in the soil, under hydrostatic pressure from the recent heavy rains, has found its way into the service lateral.

The other possibility: the fuel leak is fresh.

BP--which O’Dell noted has been cooperating fully with the town--has hired a contractor to investigate and mediate. The Utility, for its part, is reviewing the feasibility of re-locating the business’ service lateral away from the underground tank field. Meanwhile, O’Dell said, both the Porter County Environmental Department and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management are now involved.

Across the street on Indian Boundary Road, at the McDonald’s, a local builder was working Wednesday evening to frame up a temporary shed to house the lift station. The pump is still being powered by an emergency generator, however, and O’Dell said that the Utility is talking to NIPSCO about getting the station back on the grid.

The explosion occurred shortly after 12 a.m. on Wednesday. No one was injured in the blast, which was powerful enough to dump the shed in the middle of Indian Boundary Road and damage the freestanding McDonald’s sign overhead. Hard to believe, but the lift station itself--the control panel and pump apparatus--remained operational.

 

 

 

Posted 6/27/2014