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For the week of Nov 28 - Dec 4, 2001


Manager disputes slow cleanup allegations

Gasoline contamination at 
Redfish unresolved

Express Staff Writer

Redfish Lake Lodge manager Jeff Clegg and his legal council last month disputed allegations the lodge’s management has done little to clean up gasoline contamination in soils near a lodge fuel station.

"We would have moved faster had we not been delayed," Clegg said. "We have made every effort in a timely manner, as we have been allowed to do so. The Forest Service has prevented things from moving quicker, and the agencies they have to report to, I’m sure."

Gasoline contamination was discovered at this Redfish Lake Lodge fuel station last summer, and cleanup efforts at the site are still underway. The lodge’s management, an insurance company, Idaho DEQ and the Forest Service are sorting out cleanup efforts. Express Photo by David N. Seelig

It’s been six months since gasoline was detected in soils near a Redfish Lake Lodge fuel station in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The full extent of the contamination is not yet known. A suspected leaky line connecting the station’s fuel tanks and pumps was reported by the lodge’s management on June 4. Fuel pump operations were suspended upon detection of the leak.

Redfish Lake, spawning habitat for endangered sockeye salmon, is probably not in danger of contamination. The water table flows east or southeast beneath the fuel station, which is about 2,000 feet northeast of the lake, according to a report from MAXIM Technologies, the site contractor. Seasonally, however, MAXIM believes the groundwater may flow on a northerly tangent.

Officials do not know how long the leak occurred or how extensively the contamination spread in the area’s soils and water table. Clegg said it was something he probably inherited when his father-in-law, Arlen Crouch, purchased the resort three years ago.

Nonetheless, "we take responsibility for it," he said.

The lodge’s management, a gasoline storage tank insurance company and MAXIM have worked proactively on the matter all summer and fall, said environmental lawyer Murray Feldman.

Clegg has spent in excess of $30,000, and the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund insurance company has spent in excess of $72,000 to resolve soil and water table contamination issues, Feldman said.

MAXIM installed three, 50-foot-deep monitoring wells in July and received permission from the Forest Service last month to begin mopping up contamination using a soil vacuum extraction system.

"Each of the monitoring wells contained detectable concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbons," the MAXIM report stated. Other hazardous chemicals ¾ including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes and naphthalene ¾ were also detected, most in small concentrations. The chemicals are major chemicals that are included in gasoline, according to Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Regional Manager Barbara Jewell.

Feldman pointed out that obtaining permits from the Forest Service to install the extraction system was a slow process that lasted nearly three months.

"I think things are moving along promptly here, and they would be moving along more promptly if the agencies had been giving approvals," Feldman said. "Jeff Clegg has been moving along as fast as he can."

Sawtooth National Forest Permit Administrator Allison Nelson said the Forest Service has granted approvals as soon as applications were complete.

But Jewell, who declined to comment on the assertion that the agencies are slowing the process, said the three wells are insufficient in number to determine the full scope of the contamination.

Also, Clegg did not sign a DEQ consent order, which sets up remediation standards and timelines, by an Oct. 9 deadline. The consent order remained unsigned Nov. 27, but Feldman said it is not something he or Clegg will make a fuss about.

"To me (and) to Mr. Clegg, the consent order’s a non-issue. We don’t want to spend too much time or money on the consent order, because that’s not what’s going to get things cleaned up," Feldman said.

Jewell said DEQ and Feldman have negotiated a deadline in the next two weeks for the consent order to be signed. If it is not signed, she said, DEQ will impose a mandatory schedule and criteria for cleanup.

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

Feldman said fines and penalties will not be issues in this case, because the issue will be properly resolved.

Petroeum Storage Tank Fund representative Mike Brush declined to comment.


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