News

Gas station cleanup could lead to complete overhaul

A private battle over the long-abandoned Bayside Grocery in Harper is netting Kitsap County and local residents an unexpected bonus — clean land and clean water.

Bayside, a former mini-mart and gas station, has been shut down since at least 2001 — no one seems quite sure of the exact date. Since then, it has become a plague to locals and county officials tired of the endless trash, junk and vagrants who drift onto the property and refuse to leave.

The property, located at the corner of Banner Road and Southworth Drive next to Curley Creek, has also been a Department of Ecology headache. Ecology agent Dick Storey said the store has a huge DOE file with countless reports detailing the contaminants found in the site’s soil and even in the groundwater nearby.

The half dozen or so buried gas and oil tanks on the site had apparently sprung leaks at some point and leached petroleum products into the surrounding land. With the high water table there, it was only a matter of time before pollutants got into the water, too.

“They had high groundwater contamination there,” enough to get the site on the DOE’s contaminated sites list, Storey said.

While all this was going on, Amresco, the lending agency that had financed the property, got tired of waiting for payments that never came and threatened to foreclose.

Bill Chapman, who is serving as Amresco’s legal council, said his client wasn’t about to take on a polluted property and sued owner-of-record John Cho to get the site cleaned up.

Chapman said Cho agreed the site needed to be cleaned up and used the lawsuit as leverage to get his insurance company to pay to remove the leaking oil and gas tanks, as well as the contaminated soil.

Chapman said state law requires any business with underground petroleum storage tanks to take out insurance in case of leakage. In this case, he said, the insurance company “stepped up” and took care of the mess almost immediately.

“Never got to a deposition,” Chapman said. “Pretty efficient.”

Crews showed up at the site in early April and spent several weeks carting off the buried tanks and hauling out mounds of gas-soaked soil. The land was finally graded and is expected to be repaved sometime in the near future.

This came as a surprise to county officials, who has been trying to get the site cleaned up for years.

County code enforcement officer Steve Mount said he got the impression the owner had simply walked away from the property; the county has had problems finding someone to take care of junk in the past and Mount said he wasn’t even sure who the current responsible party was.

The attorney representing Cho in the lawsuit and cleanup did not return phone calls seeking comment.

At one point, the county had considered putting the property on its list of old gas stations slated to receive brownfields cleanup funds, but now that the tanks and the dirt are gone, it may no longer qualify. Storey warned testing will still have to be done on a regular basis to make sure groundwater quality continues to improve, but with the tanks gone, the main source of pollutants may have gone with them.

The property is still of concern to code enforcement, however. Mount said the old grocery store has been frequently targeted by squatters and is getting harder and harder to secure. He said he planned to leave a posting at the property after the construction crews left informing the owner he had 30 days to permanently secure the site or the county would tear it down.

Construction ended the last week in April but there has been no sign whether the owner planned to seal the store or rip it down.

Chapman said Cho technically still owns the property, although the lender reserves the right to foreclose should things get bad again. He said Amresco was pleased the property had been cleaned up and anticipated it might, in the future, be used for some commercial purpose again.

“We’re hoping it will enter the market soon,” Chapman said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Nov 14
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates