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For the week of  October 31 - November 6, 2001


Fuel leak at 
Redfish unresolved

Express Staff Writer

It’s been five months since gasoline was detected in soils near the Redfish Lake Lodge gas station in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, though little has been done to clean up or fix the problem since then.

The extent of the contamination is not yet fully known, and sufficient clean-up measures are not yet in place, said Barbara Jewell, regional manager for Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Gasoline seeped from the gas station into soils just several hundred feet from the shores of Redfish Lake, which is a known spawning habitat for endangered sockeye salmon. It is also several miles upstream from the spawning habitat for endangered chinook salmon.

A suspected leaky line connecting the station’s fuel tanks and pumps was reported by the lodge’s manager on June 4, and gas pump operations were suspended upon detection of the leak. Officials do not know how long the leakage occurred or how extensively the contamination spread in the area’s soils and water table.

Officials are sure, however, that the contamination has found its way into the area’s water.

"It’s in the ground water. The ground water has been impacted," Jewell said.

Additionally, a DEQ consent order, which sets up remediation standards and timelines, was not signed by the lodge’s manager, Jeff Clegg, by an Oct. 9 deadline. And the consent order remained unsigned as of late last week.

"They have not done a full assessment" of the contamination, Jewell said.

Jewell said the DEQ is going to give Clegg a few more days to sign the consent order before imposing a mandatory schedule and criteria for cleanup.

If Redfish Lake Lodge were to fail to comply with a mandatory schedule and criteria, the DEQ could impose a maximum fine of $10,000 or $1,000 per day that the schedule is not followed.

"It would have been a plus to have the contamination fully characterized and to have a remediation system in place that would cover that, but I don’t think they would have been able to get fully cleaned up by the spring," Jewell said. "We’ll be looking at ongoing remediation in the spring."

A consultant, chosen by a gasoline tank insurance company and working for Clegg, is currently working to install a remediation system, Jewell said. The system will blow air into the ground water, which will transform the gasoline into a vapor before it is drawn out using a vacuum system.

"The geologic setting that characterizes Redfish Lake, sands and gravels, is a good medium for that technology to work to clean up ground water," Jewell said.

However, she said the system is set up to use three monitoring wells that were installed adter detection of the contamination.

More wells are needed to "collect appropriate data to complete the initial site characterization," SNRA permit administrator Alison Nelson said.

The Forest Service, however, is not directly involved in the cleanup, said Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel.

"As far as we’re concerned, at this point, we’re satisfied with how the state is handling it," he said. Redfish Lake Lodge has not violated any of the terms of its operating permit with the Forest Service, he said.

The DEQ originally suspected a leaky line connecting the gas station’s storage tanks to its pumps as the source of the contamination, but Jewell said the DEQ is requesting that Clegg go ahead and test the tanks "because we’re not absolutely, positively sure that the leak has only been occurring through the lines."

"We’ve got to rule out that the tanks have been leaking themselves," she said.

Compounding the difficulties, Jewell said, is the insurance company, the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund.

"They have not been very forthcoming with their information," she said.

The insurance company has been directing the site investigation and cleanup efforts, though Clegg is the legally responsible party.

Clegg and the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund were not available for comment.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.