Yakima to spend millions on gas station cleanup

Yakima to spend millions on gas station cleanup
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima is taking steps to clean up some old abandoned gas stations in the city - property that's been contaminated. KIMA learned it's a plan to give them a fresh start that would cost millions.

An empty lot. Gas pumps removed. The store closed.

A once-busy gas station on North 1st Street now sits abandoned, an eyesore and an ecological disaster. Gasoline spills more than 30 years ago contaminated the soil and groundwater below.

Yakima wants to give it new life. The city wants to buy the property and three others like it from Tiger Oil Corporation for more than $1 million.

"They look horrible," said Department of Ecology Manager Valerie Bound. "They're dilapidated. People don't want these in their community."

Giving them new life also means an environmental cleanup. That's where the Department of Ecology comes in. It asked the state for another $1 million to get rid of the mess underground. Eventually, the city would sell the cleaned up land.

"We know there are interested parties in all the sites and hopefully, we can clean them up quickly and get them into the hands of the private sector," said Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke.

The station at Nob Hill Boulevard and 24th Avenue is the most contaminated. Beneath the pavement, about four feet of soil. Between the soil and groundwater, a thick layer of petroleum. A spark - say from roadwork - could cause an explosion.

That station would cost about $1 million to restore. Another at Summitview and 55th is the least contaminated and could be ready by the end of the year.

The other site is at 16th Street and East Nob Hill Boulevard.

But, the problem isn't limited to these four sites. About 70 sites in Yakima have petroleum contamination.

Ongoing litigation between Tiger Oil and authorities has delayed cleanup in Yakima until now. It's now up to City Council to approve the deal.

While Tiger Oil owns the four properties in question, it's not clear who owned them when the spills happened. The plan to buy the old stations goes to Yakima City Council next week.