When neighbors reported strong gas fumes the Salem HazMat team responded and cleaned up a potentially dangerous gas spill in Viola at Longhorns Get-N-Go Sept. 25 after hours.
Store owner Gary Cotter said a truck driver from White River Petroleum of Batesville hooked up a hose from his tankard truck and a seal blew, spilling approximately 423 gallons of unleaded gasoline to the ground.
HazMat's Special Operations team arrived around 11:30 p.m. the night of the spill and found gasoline on top of the ground.
Cotter said the spill could have been devastating had the gas flowed under the truck because the fumes could have ignited.
Cotter said, "It was pretty irresponsible." He said the truck driver did not contact authorities; he only contacted his boss at the petroleum company. Cotter said he was upset over the fact that the driver drove off after the neighbors complained.
Fulton County Emergency Management Coordinator Albert Roork said when the Special Operations Team arrived they sopped up the gas and used a foam agent which neutralized the fumes and flammable materials.
Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will monitor the area for awhile, Roork said.
White River Petroleum Manager Otis Pendergrass denied that the truck driver had been negligent. He said he understood a cap vibrated lose which caused the gas leak.
Pendergrass said the truck driver performed his duty by reporting the incident to him.
After Pendergrass was notified of the incident he left his home in Batesville and arrived at the scene at 1 a.m. He said he stayed several hours.
Pendergrass said ADEQ has already removed a portion of the contaminated soil.
Cotter closed the store Friday and reopened Saturday morning. He said not only did he lose sales but his employees lost time and wages. "You lose a lot when you shut down," he said.
Roork said Cotter was concerned for the public's safety and made a conscientious decision to close.
Cotter said the spill is being handled in a proper manner; the cleanup will continue but will not interfere with store hours.