Pantry 1 gas leak

Milk crates in front of the pumps send a signal to customers that the pumps at Pantry 1 on U.S. Route 1 near Rising Sun are out of service because of potential leaks in its underground storage tanks.

RISING SUN — The Maryland Department of the Environment recently sent letters to 20 residents in the vicinity of Pantry 1 Food Mart to inform them that the underground gas tanks may have contaminated their wells.

The certified mail letter, dated June 19, 2019, indicates MDE received delayed information on 2018 annual sampling, which showed elevated levels of benzene in the monitoring wells on site at 1897 Conowingo Road. Monitoring wells were installed when the 12,000-gallon underground tanks were installed in 1999. Sump pumps and some lines were replaced in August 2018.

On June 5, MDE received word of the elevated benzene levels from the October 2018 sampling. At that time, benzene levels ranged from 6.6 to 220 parts per billion, which is higher than the acceptable level of 5 ppb.

A June 10 sample of the three monitoring wells found higher than acceptable levels of benzene as well as toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE. Toluene concentration was 16,100 parts per billion, which was more than 16 times higher than the acceptable level of 1,000 ppb. Benzene was found to be even higher than the October readings from 9.21 to 2,320 ppb. Ethyl benzene was at 2,440 ppb, more than three times the 700 ppb standard, and MTBE measured 34.9 ppb, about 40% higher than the 20 ppb standard.

Mark Shaffer, MDE communications director, said the agency has not determined how much fuel has leached from the tank, although he noted station records do not indicate any fuel shortages.

“At this point, MDE is focused on sampling efforts to evaluate the presence or absence of petroleum related impacts to residential water supply wells at levels that represent a risk to human health and ensuring that the tank system is not leaking,” Shaffer said Tuesday via email. “MDE will take all appropriate actions to ensure that impacts are mitigated so there are no risks to human health and the environment.”

Shaffer said 15 of those 20 at-risk wells have been tested so far, although adding the results are not yet available.

The owner of the property, Fahmida LLC, has been ordered to do its own sampling of neighboring wells. The Abingdon company, operated by Aijaz Shaikh, purchased Pantry 1 in March, according to state records.

The convenience store remains open, but no fuel can be sold.

A contractor began testing the underground tanks Tuesday to discover a source of the contamination and the integrity of the tanks.

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