More well tests ordered near Exxon

State acts after gasoline turns up in Jacksonville bank's water

March 02, 2006|By TIMOTHY B. WHEELER | TIMOTHY B. WHEELER,SUN REPORTER

State officials ordered tests yesterday on more residential wells in the Jacksonville area of Baltimore County after gasoline turned up unexpectedly in the water of a bank northeast of an Exxon service station where a 25,000-gallon fuel leak was reported nearly two weeks ago.

Herbert M. Meade, chief of oil control for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said he ordered the testing of about 20 residential wells northeast of the Exxon station because fuel was found to be tainting the well serving the Bradford Savings Bank branch at Jarrettsville Pike and Sweet Air Road. The bank is across the intersection from the station.

The bank's well already was contaminated with methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, from an earlier fuel leak at another nearby service station, Meade said. But a test since the Exxon spill showed higher levels of the gasoline additive, as well as other gas ingredients not previously seen in the bank's water.

"We feel it's directly related to the Exxon [leak]," Meade said.

State officials initially ordered ExxonMobil Corp. to sample wells up to a half-mile west and south of the station, believing that whatever gas got into groundwater would flow along an underground fault in that direction. After gasoline was found in the bank's well, Meade said, he extended the search area a quarter-mile to the northeast.

"That's a bit of a surprise, but I guess I'm not surprised," said Glen A. Thomas, president of the Greater Jacksonville Association. He said he had previously urged testing of wells within a half-mile radius of the station.

ExxonMobil Corp. has sampled 57 wells southwest of the station, and Meade said he was informed by the company that the tests so far yielded "no surprises," which he took to mean no evidence of contamination. Company spokeswoman Betsy Eaton would not comment on the well tests, but said the results had been mailed to property owners and to the state.

The leak, which officials say apparently began Jan. 13 when a contractor accidentally drilled a hole in an underground fuel line, was reported to the state Feb. 17. The station has been shut down since then. The state is investigating how the spill occurred and why it was not reported sooner.

ExxonMobil reported yesterday that it had recovered about 6,200 gallons of the spilled gas.

A community meeting to review the spill has been scheduled for 7 p.m. March 9 at Jacksonville Elementary School, 3400 Hillendale Heights Road.

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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