Sunset storm drain incident

(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)

Reports of high concentrations of gasoline vapors at a closed gas station near Sunset Mall.

Summary information

Date of incident:  November 1, 2007

E. Sunset Dr., Bellingham, WA

Type of incident: Gas and associated vapors
Cause of incident: Under investigation
Responsible party: Unknown
Bellingham firefighter spray foam into an area under an access cover where high concentrations of gasoline vapors created a risk for an explosion.

Bellingham firefighter spray foam into an area under an access cover where high concentrations of gasoline vapors created a risk for an explosion. The foam dampened the vapors, leaving the area free of an imminent threat to public safety. Photo by Shannon Dickson, Department of Ecology.

Status updates

November 5, 2007

The Unified Command (UC) created Friday to oversee the response to the incident was disbanded earlier today, November 5. Monitoring of the site during the weekend revealed no imminent public safety risk. The emergency response phase now has evolved into a cleanup action. Ecology’s underground storage tanks unit will continue to follow-up.

State and local agencies and private contractors are confident the gasoline leak has been contained. Ecology and contractors hired by the Chevron gas station will lead efforts to clean up the gasoline contamination – with continued support from the City of Bellingham.

The carwash and the Stop N Go espresso stand will remain open while all maintenance takes place.

At the gas station site, work will continue including:

• Continuing to monitor vapors.

• Continuing to monitor storm drain catch basins for vapors and sheen between the Chevron station and the drains' Squalicum Creek outfall at Woodstock and James.

• Tending and, if necessary, replacing absorbent materials placed as a precaution in storm drain catch basins and in Squalicum Creek, just below the storm drain outfall.

• Excavating and removing gasoline-contaminated soil.

• Regularly checking other catch basins - and deploy new spill-control equipment if necessary.

Future Actions:

• Twice a day, the contractor will continue to monitor vapors and booms in storm drains from the site to Squalicum Creek.

• Pump recovery will continue to remove liquids from trench into a large storage tank. The area will be backfilled and paved.

• Contractor will continue to characterize the site and clean up contamination.

November 3 - 4, 2007

• Contractors emptied of gasoline and other petroleum products out of underground storage tanks at the Chevron gas station.

• Contractors also emptied of gasoline and other petroleum products and water out of the station’s “tank nest” – the ballast fill that surrounds an underground tank.

• The storm water system from Sunset Drive to Squalicum Creek was flushed and any trapped gasoline removed.

• Contractors collected subsurface soil and water samples at and near the gas station – and more samples are expected to be collected.

• Excavation of trenches was finished on the west and north sides of the tank nest. Gasoline appeared to have migrated offsite since soils samples taken in the area were contaminated with gasoline.

• Gasoline also was found in soil and water samples on the north side of the station.

• Absorbent boom and pads were placed at the outfall to Squalicum Creek.

November 2, 2007

Ecology, Bellingham city officials, and a contractor for a nearby Chevron gas station have formed a unified command to monitor the situation and ensure that prompt actions are taken if needed.

Station owners are cooperating fully with local and state officials to ensure that public safety and minimize environmental damage from the gasoline.

There is no imminent public risk.

The gas station is taking steps to determine whether its facilities are leaking gasoline, and if so to prevent gasoline from moving off the property.

The station owner removed all fuel remaining in the station’s underground tanks. The station has been closed for scheduled maintenance since October 15.

Today, the City fire department put foam fire retardant on three small areas that had high gasoline vapor concentrations. Yesterday, fire fighters took the same step to control vapors at one of the same small areas.

The gas station contractors are expected to start more extensive underground soil investigation by digging test holes throughout the site.

The sidewalk and a bus stop are closed along with an adjacent drive-through coffee business – and are expected to stay closed through the weekend.

Further actions tonight and during the weekend will be determined from the results of this afternoon’s testing.

November 1, 2007

The City of Bellingham Public Works, Fire Department, and the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) took quick action to control high concentrations of gasoline vapors at a closed gas station near Sunset Mall.

There is no imminent public risk and businesses are open in the area. Ecology directed the station’s owner to take emergency action to ensure that no gasoline is migrating off the site on E. Sunset Dr., between Barkley and Orleans Streets.

An environmental contractor hired by the station’s owner arrived on-scene and is making preparations to carry out the Ecology directive. The station’s consultant will investigate and intercept, as needed, any gasoline that may be leaving the site.

City Public Works crews were following up on a report from last week of a sheen and gasoline odors at a storm drain outfall to Squalicum Creek near James St. and Woodstock Way, following a rain storm.

News releases

Media contact

Ty Keltner, Media contact,, 360-407-6990