April 7, 2005 - Past Gas ... Station
One of the Edhat dedicated staffers used to drive over the San Marcos Pass every day. Because she had to leave early in the morning, it was important to make sure the old gas tank was full the night before, in order to save precious early morning sleep time. Well, sometimes you get tired at night. You just wanna go home. You forget things - like making sure the old gas tank is full. And so, there were early morning detours to the gas stations on State Street (usually the cheap Ontare station), wishing for the olden days. You see, back in the olden days of nineteen-eighty-something, there was a Mobil Station right at the foot of the Pass, on the corner of Foothill Road and Highway 154.
For a brief period in 1997, the gas station was converted into a hippie grocery store whose only marketing effort appeared to be giant flags with coffee mugs on them. Ed actually made his way through the weeds to try a cup of coffee there once.
He remembers it with a grimace.
It is at these crossroads that this week's Wednesday Where Is It picture was taken. These days, there's just an old building, a chain link fence, a couple of warning signs - and some monitoring wells. Huh? Monitoring wells are used for monitoring groundwater contamination. What are they doing there?
In the early eighties, it was discovered that a lot of underground fuel tanks were leaking their contents (in many cases, gasoline) into the ground. The EPA conducted a study of tanks, which found that 80 percent of all of the underground fuel storage tanks in use in the US were made of unprotected bare steel. This means they were subject to corrosion just from being in the ground. The study concluded that almost all of the leaks were the result of the tanks being corroded.
So in 1988, the EPA issued comprehensive requirements for nearly two million underground storage tanks, half of which were used to store gasoline at service stations.
In a nutshell, the EPA's new rules required owners and operators of underground tanks containing petroleum products to monitor tanks for leaks and, in the event of a leak, notify authorities and clean up the contamination. Any new tanks had to be certified leak-proof and protected from corrosion. All operators were given five years to install leak detection on their existing tanks, and ten years to bring them all into compliance with the no-leak rule.
The EPA provided federal funding to states to identify and clean up existing contamination. The rules said that the contamination had to be cleaned up, and the soil and groundwater monitored until the contamination levels were low enough to meet the EPA's standards. For cases in which mom and pop gas station owners couldn't pay, the EPA set up a fund that collected 500 million dollars over five years through a tax of one-tenth of a cent on gasoline.
Maybe that's one of the nine tenths that all stations charge?
Remember a couple of years ago when a bunch of stations in town all shut down at the same time (like the on De La Vina & State where Coffee Cat is now)? That was around the same time the 10-year moratorium ran out.
You wouldn't know it by looking at the dilapidated building and the graffiti, however the site is, for the most part, cleaned-up. But the chain link fence will remain until the monitors say that all is clear. When and if that time comes, the owners of the property, Webster Properties LLP, have big plans. They are planning on replacing the 1,750 square foot service station with a 66,906 square foot office building. When that happens, we will certainly all know where it is.
In yesterday's contest, the popular guesses were Goleta Community Center, Makenzie Park, Mission, El Presidio, Schott Center, Open Alternative school, Victoria Hotel, Cabrillo Bath House, Veteran's Clinic, Santa Barbara High School, Courthouse, Ensemble Theater, Milpas Post Office, UCSB, Comeback Cafe, Albertsons at Five Points, Casa De La Guerra, SB Juinor High, Carrillo Recreation Center, and Santa Marcos High School. However, no one guessed the gas station, so there is no winner. But, tanks a lot for playing!
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