Indiana man sues after leaking fuel tank forces him out of house

A leaking underground storage tank (or LUST) is the basis of a lawsuit in which a Muncie, Indiana, man accuses his neighbors of failing to warn him about an old tank on their property that was slowly but steadily contaminating the ground. Jeffrey Wray, a computer technician for a local hospital, alleges that his neighbors, the owners of a former gas station, failed to warn him that the ground and water beneath his house had been contaminated by fuel from a LUST. According to the lawsuit, the problem continued unabated for years, finally forcing Wray out of his home.

“The fumes were so bad I got a headache after visiting for 30 minutes,” Wray’s attorney told the Muncie Star Press.

The Star Press reports that 6,300 LUST sites have been cleaned up statewide since 1988. Barry Sneed, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), told the paper that the LUST section of his agency is in the process of addressing some 2,400 additional sites where leaking tanks are believed to be contaminating the surrounding land and water. He also said that IDEM receives roughly 200 reports of new leaks and spills every year.

IDEM’s cleanup plan for the area near Wray’s home calls for the removal of 3,220 tons of fuel-contaminated soil.

Sneed told the Star Press that IDEM has not taken any punitive action against the owners of the affected property. He said the responsible party is cooperating fully to assist authorities in the evaluation and cleanup. The owners are also submitting remediation plans for IDEM’s review.

Nearly half a million underground tanks throughout the United States have had confirmed leaks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Many have been cleaned up, but more than 100,000 of the known LUSTs are awaiting removal and cleanup.

A vaporous gasoline odor in the basement of your home is often a telltale sign that your property might be contaminated by a LUST.