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Old fuel tank is money pit

AHOSKIE – Town officials here will have to spend nearly $20,000 of unbudgeted funds to correct a 14-year-old problem.

At their Tuesday meeting, the Ahoskie Town Council approved an $18,725.50 contract with GMA (Groundwater Management Associates, Inc.) of Greenville in order to comply with a directive mandated earlier this year from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR).

In turn, GMA will assess and remove petroleum leaking from an underground tank located at the Ahoskie Fire Department (and old police station).

The problem with a leaking fuel tank at the Fire-Police station was initially discovered and documented by NCDENR in 1996. The passage of more stringent environmental regulations since that time warrant the town to further address the situation.

“These are old metal tanks…underground fuel tanks that now require extensive monitoring,” Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond told the Council. “We are responsible for paying for this; this is an unfunded mandate from the state.”

Hammond stressed that failure to comply would lead to fines assessed to the town by NCDENR.

“This is something we have to do and, unfortunately, it is not part of our current fiscal year’s budget,” Hammond explained.

According to the guidelines set forth by NCDENR, due to the confirmation of an earlier discharge from the tank, the town is required to hire the services of a licensed geologist, certified by the state, to oversee the work as well as to prepare and certify all reports submitted to NCDENR on the town’s behalf.

GMA has agreed to perform those tasks. They will conduct an assessment to delineate precisely the amount of the “free product” (leaking petroleum) plume and will determine relevant hydrogeologic factors. They will also perform “free product” recovery and submit results of the recovered product.

The contract also calls for GMA to install four new monitoring wells on the property (located west of McGlohon Street) as well as perform a “free product” check in three monitoring wells already on the premises.

NCDENR said in its letter to the town that the risk-based assessment for the corrective action is ranked as “high.”