Owners of a West Hollywood car wash and gasoline station, following state health agency orders, have excavated two storage tanks suspected of leaking gasoline into ground water reserves, but officials have been unable to find any leaks in the tanks.
Several holes were found in lines leading from the tanks to dispenser pumps above ground, but those leaks were not big enough to account for the amount of gasoline involved in the contamination, said Josh Workman, senior water resource control engineer for the state regional Water Quality Control Board.
The owners, meanwhile, are stuck with a $130,000 bill for the excavation and face additional costs for sales lost since the station was closed three weeks ago.
"I'm dug up like a mine field," owner Sunny Sunshine said. "This has been probably one of the biggest messes I've ever been involved in."
Residents near the Union Oil station-Santa Palm Car Wash, at Santa Monica Boulevard and Palm Avenue, last spring complained of gasoline fumes in their home plumbing fixtures. An inspection of area sewer lines in March showed that gasoline was leaking into ground water reserves, but officials were unable to pinpoint the source.
A one-night evacuation of homes on Huntley Drive, just south of the gas station, was ordered after the discovery in March.
Officials ordered the owners of the car wash to excavate their tanks after tests taken over a three-day period in June showed that a 10,000-gallon tank of unleaded gasoline was 3,000 gallons short.
But, Workman said, "it turned out that a visual inspection (on Aug. 20) didn't reveal any holes" in the tank.
Work crews are inspecting the soil underneath the dispenser pumps to see how much gasoline might have leaked from lines leading to those devices, he added.
"The lines did have some holes in them," he said. "We do know that they have lost some gas from that station."
Workman said his office is inspecting 11 other suspected sources of the contamination within a half-mile radius of the corner of Sherwood Avenue and Huntley Drive, the center of the contaminated area.
"We are still of the opinion that that station is at least one of the sources of the leak," he said.