Crews Testing for Water Contamination

Work crews have begun tests to determine whether a trench must be dug and a pump installed to remove thousands of gallons of gasoline-contaminated ground water in West Hollywood.

Persistently leaking gasoline fumes have repeatedly forced residents from their homes in the Huntley Drive area. Some of the evacuees have not returned home because of the noisy presence of work crews and because city and state officials are still trying to decide how to deal with the problem, city officials said.

The leaks have been traced to a Union Oil station at the Santa Palm Car Wash on Santa Monica Boulevard, according to city administrative assistant Dori Stegman. She said that analysts from the state Regional Water Quality Control Board have tested other gas stations within a 12-mile radius of the Santa Palm station, but have found no other significant spills.

"We may have to do the tests again," Stegman cautioned, adding, "We want to be sure that when people move back to their homes, they don't have to worry about any other evacuations."

Carl Sjoberg, an official with the county Department of Public Works, recently told a group of affected residents that recovery of the gasoline seeping beneath the station has been difficult because of compacted underground soil and a network of abandoned 70-year-old sewer lines.

Stegman said that a contractor hired by the car wash owner is digging test borings on Huntley Drive this week to determine whether to do major excavation work in the area. So far, she said, tests have not disclosed any major contamination of the ground water.

If further testing reveals contamination, a trench would be dug along Huntley and a pump would be installed to remove the gasoline from the ground water. The pump would withdraw the water and then filter out the gasoline.

Another pump has already been working on Huntley Drive, filtering out gasoline from ground water. Stegman said 1,000 gallons of contaminated water have been pumped from the site.

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