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Documents reveal 7,000 gallon gas spill in Highlandville, Mo.

Gas leaks can take weeks, months, even decades to clean up.
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 9:24 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - People drive by a Highlandville, Mo. gas station every single day along Highway 160. But, very few know there are 36 monitoring wells and a gas vapor extraction system in and around the site. Thousands of gallons spilled underground there 2 years ago and the cleanup is not done yet.

The bubbling water from a fountain (see video) comes from a well just over 500 feet from the source of a 7,000 gallon gas spill.

Sharon Gutlovics doesn’t drink that water.

“With the well. I just use it for the yard,” said Gutlovics. The drinking water, everything else is on city water. So, it’s separate.”

The unleaded and super unleaded lines dripped gas into the ground two years ago this month. But, the cleanup, monitoring and cost is far from wrapped up.

Part of the reason it takes so long to clean up these spills is the ground right below us. A geologist tells KY3 our ground is kinda like Swiss cheese. Over time, gas might be trapped in one pocket. But, a crack might form and spread the leak to a whole new place underground.

“When you’re doing an underground leak, where maybe it’s sticking to the soil and maybe finding little wormholes or things it can pool in. It can take months, if not years or decades in a couple of cases to clean up,” explains Doug Gouzie with Missouri State University Geology.

After pouring over state documents, we discovered it’s not the first leak at the Highlandville station. Another one happened in 1997. Yet another in 2003.

And, Highlandville is not the only site considered a problem. We found there are 750 sites actively regulated and monitored by the state.

“An active sight is still one where either there’s investigation going on or remediation going on at a location,” explained “ Jason Smith of Environmental Works.

So, in many cases, the underground storage tank may be gone. But, the worry and watching for environmental problems with nearby water sources has not stopped.

“A lot of these sights are historical from the 50s, 60s, 70s. Sometimes these don’t get discovered until decades later. So, the tanks may be completely gone. The property may be used as something else now,” added Smith.

“We get a no further action on one and then we get another one,” commented “Dwight Leigh of Leigh Environmental.

More than a hundred underground tanks are removed from below us each year in Missouri. Not all of them are leaking. For instance, there’s no indication one leaked (in the video). Some tanks are just removed and upgraded with better protections in place against a spill.

In Highlandville, the mayor would tell leaders in other cities to buckle up for the long haul if a fresh leak happens near you.

“I would advise them to get on it fast and notify the proper authorities,” says “ Highlandville Mayor Clint Ellingsworth.

The city had to replace water lines near the site after the 2018 spill. And, a cleanup company is watching 36 monitoring wells. The flashing lights and cleanup crew may be gone but, as they say the work “ain’t” done yet.

“Be patient, yes, cause it takes awhile,” added Ellingsworth.

And, Sharon just 500 and some feet away from the station, she says she can’t live life consumed with worry.

“Obviously with me being so close there’s always a concern about it,” said Gutlovics. “But, it’s not something that’s on my mind all the time.”

The bill for the first year of the Highlandville cleanup and monitoring process came to about $150,000 dollars. A state insurance fund picks up the tab. A fee on each tanker load of gas delivered to your local station helps fill up the insurance fund with money.

The owner of the Highlandville station did not respond to our requests for an interview.

But, Kum & Go did issue a statement about their network of stations. They told us they work in close coordination with the Natural Resources Department, the state, the insurance fund and environmental consultants, to remediate these sites safely and expeditiously.

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