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Gas leak is likely contained

Problem emptied 2 homes and scared away a drugstore

MIDVALE — A slow-moving gas leak underneath 7200 South that has displaced residents of two homes and scared away a planned drugstore has most likely been contained.

The gas leak from two separate tanks at the Maverik Country Store on the corner of 7200 South and 700 East began June, and company officials discovered the problem in September. The leak, although "fairly large," has not polluted any drinking water source or spread beyond the property directly across the street from the store, Randy Taylor of the Utah Division of Environmental Quality said.

"Maverik was very quick to get onto it," he said. "They have done a massive amount of work."

By the time the leak was discovered, the gas had spread beneath the home next door. A few months later, a home across 7200 South also filled with vapors, Taylor said. Because the vapors never reached a dangerous level, the resident noticed the gas smell before instruments warned about the extended contamination.

"The nose is more sensitive than instruments," he said. "But if you can smell it, then it could be dangerous."

The spill will likely take about $2 million to clean, which Maverik will receive from the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund. Most gas companies contribute to the fund, which helps to cover the cost of damage related to gas spills and leaks. Taylor expects that it could take a number of years to completely clean the spill, although the most significant work will be done in about the next six months. During that time, a machine used to pump the gas out of the ground water and then burn it will be in the yards next to the contaminated houses.

The two residents have since been relocated with help from Maverik, although at least one of them had planned to move before the leak to make way for a Sav-On drug store, Midvale city administrator Lee King said. Plans for the Sav-On have been scrapped, however, due to the leak.

Ironically, the leak happened while Maverik was installing a high-quality leak detection system. The leak most likely occurred sometime during the installation, according to Brad Call, Maverik vice president of public relations.

"We were installing the Cadillac of leak detection systems," Call said. "There was a gap in the coverage, some installation issues, and it ended up getting away from us."

Although the unpredictability of groundwater levels can lead to a further spread of the gas, Call doubted that any other property would become contaminated.

"It's a tricky business, and once in a while there's a surprise," he said. "But we feel like we have got everything under control."