Bad soil delays project

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 Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
 Soil contamination at this former service station has halted redevelopment at the site for now.

Northstar Realty pulled its plans to build a Starbucks and a FedEx Kinkos at the site of the former Go Kleen Exxon at 1400 Hill Road in Pickerington after the discovery of extensive soil contamination.

According to records from the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR), a fuel tank at the site leaked several years ago when the property was owned by Thomas Young.  The leak not only contaminated the soil, but also, at that time, the ground water.

Hank-N-Sons bought the property from Young in October of 2003, but the company’s owner, Slade Hankinson declined to comment for this story.

Shane Cartmill, public information officer for the Division of the State Fire Marshall of which BUSTR is a part, said that Hank-N-Sons removed 3,000 cubic tons of contaminated soil. However an environmental consultant found the contamination still too high. The consultant estimated Hank-N-Sons needed to remove another 6,000 cubic tons.

"Because of its commercial setting and because the city uses a municipal water source, not wells, it is less of an environmental risk to human health," said Lori Stevens, acting chief of BUSTR.

The tanks have been removed, but demolition has halted. Northstar co-owner Tom Brigdon said his company could not afford to hold any longer. The future tenets including Starbucks and FedEx signed lease agreements stating that if the development was not completed on time, Northstar would pay penalties.  

Currently the site is cordoned-off with orange plastic fencing and "No Trespassing" signs. Fuel pumps spray painted as "4 Sale" stand in front and behind the empty buildings. The wide pit and heaping pile of twisted debris face Hill Road.

Brigdon said that Northstar suffered a "pretty big loss" on the project. The developer had already begun escrow payments on a loan, in addition to fees for engineers, architects and building permits.

Hank-N-Sons could have to pay in excess of $100,000 to remove the soil. They are currently accepting bids, Brigdon said.  "It’s the seller’s responsibility to deliver the site clean."

Northstar and Hank-N-Sons are still in contact. Northstar may come back on board once the contamination is cleared and a timeline for construction can be defined.  Brigdon said he believed Northstar could persuade many of their tenets to return as well.

"I think what we were going to build was attractive, and I would still like to do it, but there are issues to be worked-out first," Brigdon said.  "The city of Pickerington has been wonderful to work with.  The city officers and the planning commission are very pleasant."

About BUSTR

Over the course of the BUSTR program, which was established in 1988, there have been 23,000 reported petroleum releases in Ohio. BUSTR has closed more than 85 percent of the release files.

Two to three times a week, BUSTR receives a report that one of those tanks is leaking somewhere in the state. While it sounds significant, the number of leaking tanks is actually a small percentage of the tanks present in the state. The majority of petroleum spills are fairly limited in scope and don’t contaminate a wide area.

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