Owner says no underground leaks from tanks at former gas station site on South Main Street

LACONIA — After closing the gas station at the corner of South Main Street and Garfield Street, Jeff Pierson, president of Foley Oil Company, said yesterday that he is working with the Department of Environmental Services (DES) to prepare the property for redevelopment.

Contrary to a recent report in The Citizen, Pierson said that there are no failed underground fuel tanks on the site. He explained that in 1993 the existing tanks were replaced in anticipation of stiffer regulations that became effective in 1998. The double-wall tanks, approved and authorized by DES, were equipped with monitoring system that operated 24 hours a day seven days a week and sounded an alarm if the outer wall was breached by groundwater or the inner wall by fuel.

"In 20 years we never had a leak," Pierson said. "We have always been in compliance and to this day there is nothing wrong with the tanks in the ground."

However, Pierson said that when new regulations become effective in 2015 the company would have to invest as much as $100,000 in both tanks and pumps to remain in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. He said that since sales at the location would not warrant the expenditure he chose to close the station. "This was our choice as a company," he said.

Pierson said that the company will decommission the station by removing the tanks, along with other material tainted by petroleum products during the approximately 50 years the property has housed a gas station and repair shop. "Quite a bit of material will be removed then replaced with clean fill and paved," he said, stressing that the company will fund the work, which will be performed to standards set by DES.
Meanwhile, DES will remove contaminated materials from an area around the property, including a section of Garfield Street, where several other service stations operated in the past. The project will be financed by the New Hampshire Petroleum Reimbursement Program, which draws on four separate funds accrued from surcharges on the sale of petroleum products.

Pierson said that because Foley Oil Company enjoyed an unbroken record of compliance, DES was authorized to share in the cost of remediating the effects of past fueling operations in the vicinity of the station.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that Pierson first approached her about a year ago about redeveloping the property, indicating that he would prefer a use that served the neighborhood. He said that the building will be renovated so it is suitable for rent, but otherwise he has no specific plan for the property other than improving it to do justice to its prominent location.