According to The Graham (North Carolina) Star, a leak was first detected in a fuel tank storing premium fuel at the Crown gas station in the western North Carolina town of Robbinsville in mid-August.
Since then, remediation efforts have removed 2,600 gallons of gasoline from the ground, “enough to fill a 15-gallon vehicle gas tank 173 times,” the Graham Star noted. The cleanup and abatement operations remain ongoing.
The leak has contaminated the nearby Tallulah Creek and Cheoah River.
“The section of stream immediately downstream of the release is exceeding surface water standards for benzene and toluene. The lower section of the Cheoah River, immediately upstream of Lake Santeetlah, is intermittently exceeding the surface water standard for toluene,” Landon Davidson, regional supervisor with the N.C. Division of Water Resources, told The Graham Star.
Because of the contamination and its threat to human health, the Graham County Health Department issued a recreation-use advisory for Tallulah Creek and Cheoah River more than 200 days ago, which remains in effect.
Benzene exposure can have a harmful impact on the blood. People exposed to the chemical may experience a decline in red blood cell production in the bone marrow, anemia, autoimmune deficiencies, and leukemia.
Unlike benzene, toluene has not been linked to cancer, but it can have harmful effects on the nervous system and brain in addition to a range of other symptoms affecting the eyes, nose, lungs, liver, kidneys, muscles, and skin.
The owner of the Crown station told The Graham Star that the environmental statistics are misleading and says “the water in the stream is fine,” but the paper notes that the Tallulah water treatment plant about 500 yards downstream remains closed because of contamination, an assertion the station owner also disputes.
There is no word on how much longer the cleanup efforts are expected to take.
Source: The Graham Star