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2015-12-03

Old Timer up & running after gas spill

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Photo by Clare Barnet
Workers and equipment from various local and state agencies moved quickly to stop and clean up an oil spill at the Old Timer in Medina Sunday.



Highway 16 North through Medina was closed for approximately 10 hours Sunday, Nov. 27, due to a gas spill at the Old Timer convenience store in downtown Medina.
Quick response by the Medina Volunteer Fire Department contained the spill and supporting efforts by several other agencies prevented what could have been a huge disaster for the close-knit community. The spill was allegedly caused by a vehicle running into a gas pump in front of the store.
"I can't say enough about our fire department," said Old Timer owner Deborah Martin. "They were on top of it! And most of them stayed for 14 or 15 hours!"
According to County Fire Marshal John Stith, Bandera County Emergency Dispatch received a call from a citizen reporting a strong odor of gas at the gas station at 12:30 am Sunday morning. The Medina VFD was immediately dispatched. After arriving at the scene, firefighters reported a large amount of gasoline on the ground. "They located the 1,000 gallon above-ground storage tanks and manually shut down all valves which stopped the continuous flow of fuel," Stith's press release stated.
Traffic was diverted around the scene for about 10 hours until the all clear was given.
"We wouldn't leave the scene until we were sure it was safe for the public," Stith said.
He estimated that approximately 300 gallons of unleaded gasoline was spilled.
According to Martin, law enforcement has a video showing a vehicle pulling under the porte-cochere in front of the store, between the gas pumps and the front door. The vehicle apparently struck one of the gasoline pumps with some force. The occupants exited the vehicle and spent about six minutes apparently examining the damage, before leaving the scene without bothering to call 9-1-1. Martin also said there were witnesses to the incident.
She is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the "culprits," as she described them. Anyone with information should contact the fire marshal's office or the sheriff's office.
A hazmat clean up company arrived at the scene Sunday afternoon to begin clean up efforts and the store re-opened for business Sunday evening.
In a way, the rainfall that made Thanksgiving a bit of a muddy mess in Bandera County may have helped limit the environmental consequences of the spill.
"The ground was already saturated with water, and gasoline is lighter," explained Stith. "Therefore it didn't penetrate the ground as much as it could have." As gasoline evaporates, [the residue] becomes less combustible and safer, Stith added.
Part of the fire marshal's job is to contact other agencies as needed in a emergency situation, to monitor the situation, meter the levels of the spilled substance, and ensure the safety of the firefighters and the residents of the community. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will follow up with monitoring the clean up and any long term environmental issues, if there are any.
Rumors hinted that gasoline flowed into the Medina River. However, both Martin and the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) deny those claims.
"The fire department kept it all contained on our side of the road," said Martin. "They did a great job of protecting our river." The department laid down a series of absorbent buoys to soak up the fuel. A small amount of fuel did run onto a neighboring property behind the store.
BCRAGD's General Manager Dave Mauk said there is no indication that any fuel got into Medina River, nor is there any known threat to the county's groundwater from the spill. "Out of an abundance of caution, we're sending our aquatic biologists and water quality scientists to do some testing, as we do on a regular basis anyway."
In addition to the Medina VFD and the fire marshal, officers from the Bandera County Sheriff's Office, employees from the Texas Department of Transportation, and TCEQ staff assisted during the incident.
A grateful Martin said she couldn't thank everyone enough. "The whole community has been very supportive," she said, "and all the officers and agency officials, the fire marshal - that helped on Sunday - they were just outstanding!"