Rubis station to be demolished; answers sought on fuel spill

The Shedden Road Rubis station stands largely deserted after clean-up efforts, preparing for a Friday move. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

The Rubis station on Shedden Road will be empty by Friday, and demolition will start immediately as workers and several companies seek the origins, age and size of the fuel spill underneath the premises.

Remediation of the underground toxic oil and gas pool is likely to run into “six digits,” said station operator Wayne Kirkconnell, who has been clearing shelves, removing furniture and equipment.

“We have a team of 10 or 12 people working five and six hours all day,” he said.

The rush to vacate the property comes in the wake of last week’s discovery of the subterranean pool of oil and gas. A Water Authority investigation and test samples confirmed the presence of contaminants in the water supply to one property.

Mr. Kirkconnell says the Rubis station was affected by the contaminated water, which appeared immediately after excavations of the property to the rear of the station. Redevelopment of the site started last week as Orchid Development began preparing the area for a new building to be part of the company’s adjacent Cricket Square.

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Managing Director of Orchid Development Clarence “King” Flowers offered few details about the toxic pool, but said “assessment of the situation is ongoing.”

“There is a team of experts and professionals who are working diligently to determine the appropriate course of action,” he said. Initially, Mr. Flowers had asked Rubis to vacate the station by June 30.

“That’s changed now,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. “Everything is coming down and we’ll be out in two days, gone by Friday.” Everything will be moved to his Rubis station on Lawrence Boulevard.

The Water Authority, which sampled the chemical deposits last week, said a Florida-based lab had found traces of fuel-related pollutants in the water, exceeding international standards at one property, but below-critical levels at a second.

“The authority immediately advised the customer of the affected property that the water was not safe to drink,” said Water Authority Corporate Communications Officer Hannah Reid, adding that contamination occurred “because the pipelines supplying water to the property had come in direct contact with the fuel.”

Local wells were cleared of any taint, although the authority has advised those in the vicinity not to use groundwater until further notice.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” Ms. Reid said.

She said the spill “was determined not to have come from the existing gas station operations.”

Mr. Kirkconnell attributed the subterranean pool to several auto body shops that had operated for 35 years at the rear of the station.

“The mechanics were performing oil and gas changes and just dropped it on the ground,” he said. “The pool below is between five years and 10 years old.”

After excavations disturbed the accumulated waste, he said, the liquid “ran downhill,” pooling beneath the building.

“It’s kind of like reaching down and putting your hand into a sponge,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. Both he and the Water Authority said the Rubis owners had helped to ameliorate the situation, employing advisers to chart the next move.

Since assumed control from Texaco in 2011, he said, “Rubis has spent a lot of money ensuring nothing was coming from the gas station. Rubis has brought in experts to help remediate this, working with a company out of the U.S. and being really generous corporate citizens.”

Ms. Reid said Rubis contacted the authority when they discovered the fuel spill as part of ongoing developments on site.

“Although the spill was determined not to have come from the existing gas-station operations, Rubis has taken the initiative to contract Arcadis, an overseas consultant with expertise in environmental assessment and remediation, to consult on the matter.”

Arcadis is an Amsterdam-based environmental contractor with 300 offices worldwide, including Florida.

Rubis Managing Director Joel Maes said he had no idea how old or how large the spill was, adding that “a few test pits are being drilled.”

Neither he, Mr. Kirkconnell nor Mr. Flowers would put a price on the remediation. “I have no idea,” Mr. Maes said.

“No one knows how long it will take or who pays, but it’s going to go to the lawyers,” Mr. Kirkconnell suggested Wednesday. Meanwhile, he sought to ease immediate concerns.

“There isn’t a fire that’s going to explode under the station or anything. It’s just an unhealthy environment,” he said.

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  1. How this could have happened under everyone’s nose for so many years? What are the agencies (EPA?) that should have prevented this from happening? Will heads roll?
    This is an environmental disaster of yet unknown proportions related to toxic waste. Just imagine what is going on under the Dump.

  2. I wonder if everyone involved think that the rest us are stupid for us to believe what they are saying . Where is the DOE and DOH on this issue ?

    I think that those fuel tanks should have been pumped out and removed and inspected and the clean up started . But all we would hear is an investigation is on going .

  3. While the LA is in session this is something that they should be working on , because I think that the reason for this big oil / fuel spill , I think that these tanks have n,ever been inspected from the day they were put in the ground .. Heads should have to roll over this . Does the government really care about our environment ?