Minden Beacon gets clean bill of health | NevadaAppeal.com

Minden Beacon gets clean bill of health

Sally J. Taylor, appeal staff writer

Frank Butler, a San Fernando, Calif. resident, stops off at the Beacon gas station in Minden five years after a gasoline spill caused a contamination in surface water. The station was just cleared of having to do constant ground water tests due to that spill. Photo by Brian Corley

Five years after a gasoline spill turned business upside down for Minden Beacon owner Dave Mill, things are finally getting back to normal.

The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection officially cleared the station of contaminates, ending ongoing testing, on March 28.

“It’s all done,” Mills said of the clean-up that cost half a million dollars followed by monthly tests searching for contamination. “We don’t have to do this any more.”

It all began in October 1997 with a gasoline spill caused by a faulty blend valve in the station’s gas tanks. An early estimate suggested 8,000 to 10,000 gallons had spilled.

Fearing contamination of the town’s water supply with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, Minden’s oldest well was shut down, leaving the other four wells to pick up the slack.

Clean-up crews later calculated the spill at only 250 gallons, Mills said.

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No contaminate ever reached the town’s aquifers, confirmed Doug Zimmerman with the state Environmental Department, but did find its way into surface water.

From March 2000 to October 2001, the well was tested 29 times with no detectible contamination found, Zimmerman said.

Mills sued his former gasoline supplier, Toms Sierra Nevada of Colfax, Calif., accusing the company of installing faulty equipment that led to the leak and cleanup expense. A settlement awarded him 30 cents on the dollar, he said.

“It just about took care of the consultant and legal fees. $150,000 came of my pocket.”

The Minden Beacon is one of hundreds sites around Nevada undergoing clean-up for various contaminates, Zimmerman said. Six are in the Carson City and Douglas County region.

“MTBE is fairly common,” he said. ” All (the contaminates) are components of leaking pipes.”

He added that the state petroleum fund — a three-quarter cent per gallon gasoline tax — helps business owners with clean-up expenses, but doesn’t pay for the entire amount.

Zimmerman commended Mills and those working on the cleanup of Minden Beacon.

“This has been an effective one. The Minden Beacon successfully discovered and cleaned up the spill and we had the cooperation of the owners.”

“It’s over,” Mills said. “I learned a lot. We lost some money, but that’s OK. We got it all cleaned up and no one got hurt by it.”