Reverchon Park is one of Dallas' best public spaces, an unexpectedly sylvan expanse sandwiched between Uptown and Oak Lawn. Yesterday morning, the loveliness was marred by an overpowering stench of gasoline, as if someone had dumped out several gallons of fuel a few feet away. The smell had no obvious source. There was no wrecked car on Maple Avenue leaking fuel, no landscaper's overturned gasoline can, but it nevertheless seemed to cover the entire park. It was nauseating down on the banks of Turtle Creek, and it was nauseating on top of the old stone Works Progress Administration steps.
The situation became somewhat more explicable if one followed Maple a third of a mile up a hill to Oak Lawn Avenue, where the parking lot of the 7-Eleven gas station on the corner was cordoned off with yellow fire department tape. It became more explicable still when a clerk inside said that a customer had crashed into one of the gas pumps. The clerk had never seen anything like it. Gasoline was geysering into the air and spilling all over the parking lot. It didn't take an engineer to deduce that gravity had tugged a good deal of the spilled gas down the hill from the 7-Eleven parking lot and into Turtle Creek.
7-Eleven confirmed as much in a statement Friday afternoon. "At approximately 3 a.m. Thursday morning, a vehicle hit a dispenser causing a small amount of gas to leak from the pump," the company said. "Our environmental consultants have been working with cleanup crews since that point, and cleanup is expected to be complete later today. We will continue to monitor the situation."
The company did not respond to a follow-up question about how many gallons qualify as a "small amount of gas." Based on the smell at Reverchon and the fish that were killed, it was more than one but less than what spilled from the Exxon Valdez. The company also didn't say why, if its environmental contractor was contacted so soon after the accident, there was no evidence of cleanup during morning rush hour five hours later. Kevin Hurley, a program manager with Dallas' Stormwater Management department, said that, as far as he is aware, City Hall first learned of the spill from Dallas Fire-Rescue at 7:40 a.m., though he said it's possible that there was an earlier report. (A DFR spokesman did not return a call for additional information.)
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokesman Brian McGovern says the agency first learned of the spill on Thursday afternoon when 7-Eleven's environmental consultant, CB&I, submitted an incident report to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
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7-Eleven didn't report on how much gasoline was spilled, McGovern says, but has kept the agency apprised of cleanup efforts. "Absorbent booms and pads were placed in the creek at intervals for a few hundred feet as far as the Dallas North Tollway," McGovern wrote in an email. "The storm drain was flushed. A vacuum truck was used to skim gasoline product where needed. As for the damaged dispenser, the licensed contractor McCon Building & Petroleum Services secured the dispenser and completed repair/replacement of the shear valves. Subsequently, the fuel system was placed back into operation."
Hurley, who also doesn't know how much gas was spilled, says the city is monitoring the cleanup. 7-Eleven expects the initial cleanup effort to be finished this afternoon. Hurley says they will then need to return to see if the spill caused any damage that will require additional remediation. Because of the dead fish, the company will also have to file a report with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Though the spill doesn't appear to be of ecosystem-destroying size, any amount of gasoline introduced into streams or soil is bad. A 2014 study out of John Hopkins University concluded that even those small droplets that land on gas station pavement can adversely impact public health. At the very least, it'd be nice to know how much gas actually spilled.