Five treatment wells and a red truck

Posted on February 11, 2010


Nearly four decades ago underground storage tanks at the Standard Service Station in Torch Lake Village began to leak.  The gasoline contaminated the soil, the groundwater, and some nearby drinking water wells.  Eventually it contaminated a community well at Bay Harbor Club. The service station is long gone. The gasoline remains.

Part I of this series, How gasoline got into the drinking water, appeared in the February 4 edition of the Elk Rapids News, and was reissued on Torch Lake Views here.  Today’s installment describes the cleanup plan.

Randall Rothe, an Environmental Quality Specialist at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), oversees Leaking Underground Storage Tank sites in Antrim County.  He described the Vacuum Enhanced Product Recovery (VEPR) process underway at the Torch Lake Village site, and provided photos of the operation. (The photos were documentation, rather than publication, quality, but they’ll give you an idea. Click on the image for a larger version.)

Five treatment wells and a red truck

On January 25-26, 2010 contractors from AECOM, a private contractor retained by DNRE, sank five treatment wells in the back yard of the property between Sonny’s Torch Lake Market and the green house owned by Dennis Schneider and Deb Comber.  That back yard is the source site, where the leaking tanks used to be, and where most of the contamination remains.

The contractors rigged up an arrangement of PVC pipes, inserted them into the wells like five big straws in an ice cream soda, and started slurping a combination of gasoline, water and petroleum vapor into a red vacuum truck provided by Young’s Environmental of Flint.  The truck holds about 2750 gallons of liquid.  As it filled, the vapors were vented into the air, an effect that Rothe compares to an idling diesel truck.  Then the red truck trundled off to Liquid Industrial Waste Services in Holland, Michigan.  The pipes were removed from the treatment wells and stored away.  This month and once each month through November the red truck will come back and do it all over again.

Meanwhile, in January of 2009 AECOM began monitoring test wells in a wide area stretching from the Day Park all the way to the Bay Harbor Club.  (See 2002 Groundwater Map PDF.) AECOM collects the samples, sends them to a State lab in Lansing for analysis, evaluates the raw data, and prepares extensive reports on the results.  The first annual report is expected by the end of this month.

Rothe does not have the resources to do a full remediation at every site.  The cleanup underway in Torch Lake Village will not remove all the contamination.  What it will do, he believes, is to reduce the amount at the source by some 30,000 gallons, halt the spread, and allow natural microbial action to work on the rest.  It will, in short, be a cost-effective solution.

Next week: A question of money