Neighbors successfully fought against a Ricker’s gas station at 146th Street and Gray Road, but the proposed service station’s new location is sparking some concerns about potential environmental contamination.
The new site at 146th Street and River Road is in a heavily used aquifer, said Carmel City Councilor Ron Carter. That site selection may be causing some anxiety with neighboring municipalities concerned about damaging the important aquifer.
A gas station is a permitted use under the planned unit development ordinance passed for the area a few years ago, something Carter candidly admits he and the other councilors overlooked.
“I don’t think any of us caught it,” Carter said. “If we had, it would have been deleted from the PUD. Shame on us for not catching it. … Do we want to risk the best source of water in Central Indiana for a gas station three minutes closer than the next? I live on the eastside and don’t mind driving to Range Line or 151st Street to get gas.”
The Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management requires all new service stations to install double-walled tanks and piping, leak detection systems, secondary containment for tanks and pipes and spill and overflow prevention systems, inspecting them periodically to ensure compliance.
“IDEM’s concerns about a facility that handles petroleum is that it is designed, maintained and operated properly to prevent spills and/or leaks that could contaminate ground water or surface water,” IDEM spokesman Barry Sneed said in an e-mail.
According to IDEM, 826 releases have been confirmed across Indiana since 2008. IDEM inspects tanks once every three years. If a complaint is received or more information needs to be collected, tanks may be inspected more frequently.
Nationally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports more than 400,000 confirmed releases of petroleum-based fuels from leaking underground storage tanks. At least one major fuel additive called methyl tertiary butyl ether – commonly referred to as MTBE – is of major concern. Considered a possible human carcinogen, even a relatively small amount of MTBE can be highly difficult to remove from water.
Jay Ricker, chairman of the Anderson-based Ricker’s, says the station will be the first the company has built in a wellhead protection area, and they are currently discussing the proper precautions with a consulting firm specializing in such matters.
Ricker said the company would likely install several features not typically found in gas stations in less environmentally sensitive areas. One of the options being discussed is a holding pond that would divert fuel away from the groundwater in case of a spill.
“We’re mindful of the fact this location is in an aquifer,” Ricker said. “We’re currently looking at a number of plans to address concerns and see what makes the most sense.”
Even if the underground storage tanks don’t fail, Carter remains concerned about getting the fuel there. A traffic accident, he said, could create a spill causing major damage to area groundwater.
Alleged concerns from Indianapolis, Westfield and Noblesville have been sent to Carmel Utilities Director John Duffy, who didn’t respond to a voice mail seeking confirmation. Noblesville Spokeswoman Cara Culp refused official comment until more details about the proposed station are made available.