UPDATE: Neighbors see creek differently after hospital fuel leak
A creek where children and pets play every day is contaminated with more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
It's the first estimate we're getting about how much diesel fuel has been lost by Cabell Huntington Hospital and seeping into Fourpole Creek.
Neighbors like Heather Headley don't see the creek in the same way.
"It looks gross," she said.
Headley lives across the street with her husband and dog Riley. She found out about the diesel fuel spill last week, one week after her neighbors smelled the fumes in the air.
"It makes me sad. I don't know what all the repercussions are."
The problem stems up the creek.
The state Department of Environmental Protection tells us diesel leaked from old fuel lines connected to boilers at the hospital and seeped into soil in storm drain pipes, then draining to the creek.
Hospital employees believe up to 1,300 gallons of diesel was lost. But no one has been able to determine how much got into the creek or how long this has been happening.
“That's a lot,” Headley said. "I'm thinking of the animals. I've seen kids around here before, too."
Headley is glad work is underway to clean up the creek.
She hopes investigators don't determine someone knew this was happening across the street from where she plans to live the next couple of years. She explained she'll be there while she's a doctorate student at Marshall.
"We enjoy being surrounded by the creek."
But the waters seem less welcoming now and not a place for Riley to play anymore.
The hospital has a contract with a company to do the cleanup. They’ve removed three dumpsters of contaminated soil already.
State officials would not tell us if the waters are safe for people or pets, how long they expect cleanup efforts to last and if the hospital will be fined for the leak.
Cabell Huntington Hospital released this statement to us:
“Since learning of a fuel odor that led to a sewage drain on campus July 3, Cabell Huntington Hospital’s facilities team immediately responded by turning off the fuel storage tank valves near the sewage drain. In cooperation with Huntington Sanitary Board and Department of Environmental Protection, the facilities team excavated underground, cleaned storm basins, and conducted soil and pressure tests to pinpoint the location. We are removing the old fuel lines and soil around them and will continue to work with the sanitary board and DEP to ensure all issues are addressed.”
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection released this statement:
“WVDEP-Environmental Enforcement met with Cabell-Huntington maintenance staff on July 12. It is now estimated that the hospital lost approximately 1,000 to 1,300 gallons of diesel.
“It is now believed that the lines that fed the diesel to the boilers had holes in them. These lines are believed to be the original lines from the 1950s when that area of the hospital was built. These lines were originally connected to an underground diesel tank, which was removed several years ago. New lines from the new diesel tank were ran to a pit that then connected to the old lines that fed into the hospital. Again, it is the old lines from the pit to the hospital where holes were found. These lines were removed. The newer lines that run from the newer diesel tank to the pit will either be cleaned and filled with grout or dug up and removed.
“The gutters from that area of the hospital fed into the storm drain. The pipe that carries the stormwater from the gutter to the storm drain was buried, had holes in it and was filled with soil. It is thought the diesel leaked from the old line with holes and ran across the storm drain pipe with holes and seeped into the soil that was in the storm drain. When the rain fall occurred the stormwater from the gutter drained through the contaminated soil in the storm drain, pushing the diesel out into the storm drain system.
“Cabell Huntington has contracted Clean Harbors to assist in the cleanup and so far, they have removed three roll-off boxes of contaminated soil, with work ongoing.”
Investigators say they have found the 'potential' source of a gas smell at Four Pole Creek at Ritter Park.
According to a spokesperson for the City of Huntington, several agencies have been looking to complaints about a fuel odor in the Enslow Park and Southside areas.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), the Huntington Sanitary Board and the Huntington Fire Department investigated.
They traced the "potential source of the odor" to a fuel tank at Cabell Huntington Hospital late Tuesday evening.
WVDEP and Sanitary Board officials believe the diesel fuel leaked into a storm water line that flows into Fourpole Creek.
Huntington Spokesperson Bryan Chambers says hospital staff members are working to confirm the leak, but immediately responded by isolating the tank.
"CHH is cooperating with the Sanitary Board and Department of Environmental Protection to address any possible issues.," Chambers said.
There are containment measures in the water just east of the Enslow Park bridge to catch any fuel.
WVDEP will continue monitoring the situation.
A gas smell is being investigated at Four Pole Creek at Ritter Park.
The Director of Storm Water in Huntington says they do not know what the source is.
He says they have been working with the Department of Environmental Protection to track it down.
Keep checking with WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.