Citizens Energy claims Carmel gas station could put local water supply at stake

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For the second time this year, there is another showdown over a proposed gas station in Carmel. This time, the center of the fight is over the water you drink.

Ricker’s is proposing to build a new service station at the corner of 146th Street and River Road. The location has already been zoned for a gas station. Carmel’s Planning Commission hosted a public hearing Tuesday night.

The project is raising concerns from some neighbors and Citizens Energy Group. They claim the service station will be too dangerously close to a local water supply, which provides drinking water to more than one-million people in Central Indiana. The area consists of 24 high-capacity wells and 15 public utility wells within a two-mile radius from the gas station.

“Any spill, leak or release of fuel at the gas station site would have a very high impact on public utility wells at a short period of time,” said Jeff Willham, a Citizens Energy Group spokesman.

Ricker’s says they have gone far beyond following safety guidelines. Its underground tanks will operate with triple-wall protection along with a monitoring device. The gas station’s piping system will also have double walls. State law requires all underground storage tanks to have at least double-wall reinforcement.

“Before there can be any type of leak, you would basically have a breach of the inner wall, the middle wall, and the outer wall,” said Joseph Scimia, an attorney for Ricker’s. “Even if contamination were to occur, it is unlikely it would reach those wells.”

Experts hired by Citizens Energy disagree. With the land’s sandy composition and shallow ground water, they claim fuel spills can quickly enter ground water and move to water wells. Geologists also say a contaminated aquifer is nearly impossible to clean up completely.

“This is not an average aquifer,” said Geoff Glanders, President of August Mack Environmental Inc. “Even with the best operators, all gas stations leak.”

This isn’t the first time the city has had issues with proposed gas stations. Kroger-owned, Turkey Hill, was denied its proposal at the same location. A proposed Ricker’s gas station was pulled from another site on 146th Street and Gray Road in January.