Commonwealth Journal

December 4, 2013

Hazmat crews clear fuel spill at Kroger South gas station

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

A local grocery store was shut down for several hours Tuesday evening while emergency responders worked to contain a large gasoline spill at the store’s fuel pumps. 
Emergency personnel received a report of a fuel spill at Kroger South, located in the Grand Central shopping center on South U.S. 27, at around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. 
“The fuel spill occurred (Tuesday) evening as a delivery was in process,” said Tim McGurk, with public affairs for the Kroger Mid-South Division, in an email. “The local fire department and (Environmental Protection Agency) officials were notified immediately and we appreciate their rapid response.”
Firefighters with the Somerset Fire Department arrived to the area first, and once there, they saw that a significant amount of gasoline had been spilled during a delivery to the store’s fuel station, which sent the flammable liquid downhill into the store’s parking lot and into the drainage system there.
Kelly Robinson, with the Somerset Fire Department, said they began work immediately to stop the spread of the gasoline. Robinson estimated that at least 100 gallons of gas had spilled in the mishap — which he said may have been caused by a mechanical malfunction on a delivery truck. 
“It’s probably more than that,” said Robinson,” but as of right now, we’re still uncertain how much spilled.”
The gas spread to where several vehicles were parked, and emergency workers roped off several parking rows while the scene was cleaned. 
“We had several cars that we had to move,” said Robinson. 
Firefighters had to push the vehicles clear of the spill site before turning them on. 
The store was also closed for several hours while the site was cleaned.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and associates so, as a precaution, our store was closed for about four hours during the clean-up process,” McGurk said in the email. 
One of the main concerns was that the gasoline had infiltrated a nearby stream, but Robinson said they were able to halt the spread of the substance before that occurred. 
“We don’t think any liquid got into the streams,” said Robinson. “We couldn’t find any signs it entered a stream.” 
Robinson said Tuesday’s spill was one of the largest they’d had to deal with in Pulaski County in some time — and he said the situation could’ve been much worse. 
“The temperature really plays a part,” said Robinson. “It was not cold, but cooler ... the higher the temperature, the more dangerous.
“If it had been 80 degrees that day, it probably would’ve been a lot worse,” Robinson added. 
Robinson said the real danger lies not with the spread of the liquid, but with the highly-flammable vapors that gasoline emits. Gasoline can vaporize at temperatures above -45 degrees, and as temperature rises, the density of the vapor increases, making it more volatile. Vapors from gas can reach far beyond the actual physical site of the spill, which is why emergency workers on Tuesday opted to rope off a significant portion of the Kroger parking lot until the scene could be cleaned. 
“It’s not the fuel, it’s the vapor from the fuel that causes problems,” said Robinson. 
Robinson said they stayed on the scene of the spill until around 11 p.m. Tuesday. McGurk confirmed that, saying the store was opened to customers again at around 11:15 p.m. 
McGurk said Environmental Protection Agency officials returned to the site of the spill on Wednesday for a follow-up inspection.
“ ... We are pleased to report that no traces of fuel were discovered,” said McGurk. 
Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson, the Somerset-Pulaski County Special Response Team /Hazmat Area 12 team, and the State Fire Marshal were all called in to assist with the clean-up. The Somerset Police Department provided traffic control.