Gasoline Station

JWells GasolineStation Key Earth Exposure Gasoline Station

This gasoline station is located along Main Street as you enter a small town in New England. It is located on a valley floor, not far from the stream located to the right in the image.


The morning that I arrived to photograph this landscape scene, there was a misty cloud cover that hadn’t yet been burned off by the sun. The green colors of the vegetation looked rich and vibrant with fresh springtime growth; the grass seemed especially lush. Set against that green lawn were clear indications of contamination below– the metal pipes sticking out of the lawn are protecting wells used to study the condition of the groundwater.


In this image, I interpreted the benzene in groundwater data from the wells and used color overlays to depict the presence of gasoline in the groundwater. The groundwater is represented with a faint blue overlay. Groundwater flows underneath the gasoline station toward the river, where it enters both the stream bed sediments and the water.


In the late 1980’s one of my jobs as an environmental consultant was to examine buckets of soil with an air monitoring instrument as the excavator removed gasoline-contaminated soil at a gasoline station. There was a “clean” pile to be placed back in when done and a contaminated pile that smelled like gasoline. Eventually the rusty metal gasoline tank was exposed, emptied, and lifted out of the ground into a truck for disposal. Small pinholes where the metal had rusted through revealed the reason for the leakage. The pile of contaminated soil got trucked off site for treatment and disposal and new clean fill was brought in to cover the new underground tanks.


The owner of the station arrived late in the day after most of the contaminated soil had been piled on the corner of the lot. It appeared to me that he was greatly saddened by the site of a gaping hole in his property and a pile of contaminated soil covered in plastic. It costs a lot of money to conduct environmental clean up work. 

© 2005