Orion officials deal with gasoline leak into sewer

Mindy Carls
Orion Village Hall

Orion officials are attacking the gasoline leak on First Street and 10th Avenue in two ways.

To keep gasoline vapors from accumulating again, village employees placed the Orion Fire Department’s exhaust fan over a manhole on 10th Avenue. The street is closed for now.

Trustee Robert “Deano” O’Leary, chairman of the sewer committee, said the village ordered a spark-proof  exhaust fan for $1,550. It was due to arrive in Orion on Tuesday, June 22.

Employees also have left the covers off two manholes on 10th Avenue, one in the intersection with First Street, and  one 30 feet to the east.

O’Leary said the village has contacted a company in Peoria that will be in town early in July to run a camera through the sewer line.

The village hopes the camera will spot breaks in the sewer line. At the moment, no one knows how the gasoline leached into the sewer system.

Board members agreed to spend up to $1,000 to have its engineering firm, Missman Stanley, file a Freedom of Information Act request with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Missman Stanley will request all records of leaking underground storage tanks at what are now Orion Mart and Casey’s General Store.

As many as four gasoline spills have been reported to the agency, including one in 1996 and one in 2002. At those times, both convenience stores had different owners.

Village Clerk Lori Sampson said the 1996 incident is still open, and the owner of Orion Mart at that time was not required to file a plan to clean up the area and prevent future leaks.

Trustee Mel Drucker said  he suspects a lot of rain brings the water table up to the level where the gasoline is.

Another theory has to do with a house that was torn down, Trustee Roger Peterson said. No one knows if the lateral was capped and sealed before the basement was filled in.

Options for keeping gasoline from infiltrating the sewer system again include lining the pipes, which would cost $38 a foot, or more than $25,000, O’Leary said.

Tax-increment financing revenue could be used to pay for the lining, Drucker said.

The village already had set aside money to sleeve the 30 feet of pipe between manholes on 10th Avenue.

“We will rely on the direction and advice of our engineering department on how to handle this,” Village President Jim Cooper said.

Drucker stressed that the Orion water supply is safe. The situation has been explained to the IEPA, which is not concerned about any danger.

The village draws its water from an extremely deep well, 1,000 feet, Drucker said. If, and it’s a big if, gasoline should get into the water, normal testing would discover it.

When property owners reported smelling gasoline, the village brought in the Orion Fire Department to flush thousands of gallons of water into the manholes to flush the system, Cooper said.

Jennifer Walker of Missman Stanley came out to Orion and recommended using an LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) meter to measure how much gasoline was in the system.

The village will purchase one in the 2011-12 budget year, O’Leary said. They are expensive.