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Health Department says gasoline leak fixed; waiting for report

Jun 2, 2006 | AP

Health officials are awaiting a consultant's report on a gasoline leak near Garrison last fall and plan to hook up rural water for a man who says it forced him out of his home.

Don Kerzmann said he and four others who live near the Cenex station where the leak was found last September are preparing a lawsuit.

Gary Berreth, a state Health Department environmental engineer, said the leak came from the station's pipe system and followed a coal vein. His estimate was "somewhere upwards of 30,000 gallons."

"Mr. Kerzmann's well happens to be a relatively shallow well. In the deeper wells, we haven't picked up any indication of contamination," Berreth said Friday.

The station stopped the leak toward the end of September, and a consultant is investigating the cause, Berreth said. The consultant's report on the leak is expected within a month.

"It seems to have gone pretty much straight down and then it hit this coal vein," Berreth said. "It's kind of a unique geology. It seems to have hit that highly fractured coal vein and just followed the fractures."

The Health Department has been testing for benzene, a component of gasoline, because exposure over a long period of time has been linked to cancer, Berreth said. Kerzmann said a doctor had ordered him to leave his home because of the contamination.

Berreth said samples were taken in the area Thursday but the results will not be known for a couple of weeks.

Kerzmann told the Minot Daily News the amount of gasoline spilled could be as high as 700,000 gallons but later told the newspaper he misspoke and the estimate was closer to 70,000 gallons. Cenex station manager Paul Schlichting told the newspaper he thought the spill was between 30,000 gallons and 40,000 gallons.

Schlichting said earlier that the station tried to reach an agreement with Kerzmann and hook him up to a rural water system. Kerzmann said he would not agree because it would bar him from trying to collect for damages.

"The state is going to hook him up to rural water since they can't come to an agreement," Berreth said. "He needs to get back to us in writing.

"Really, the only route of exposure to his residence is through that well," Berreth said. "Once the well is disconnected and rural water is provided, that should eliminate any entrance of this."

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