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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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House Fire Blamed on Leaky Gas Station

CLEVELAND (CN) - More than 1,400 gallons of gasoline leaked from a Marathon gas station, infiltrated sewer lines and made a house burst into flames, 28 homeowners say in Cuyahoga County Court. Neighborhood residents say the smell of gas was so strong the Fire Department had to be called repeatedly, as people were "smelling the fumes from inside their cars with the windows closed."

Plaintiffs Alessandra and Elisabetta Riscati "smelled a strong odor of gasoline in the basement of their house" and a few minutes later "flames exploded from the sanitary sewer lines" and spread throughout the house.

The fire came after a heavy rainfall on Aug. 28, 2009. Residents of the neighborhood in Parma, Ohio say they were "exposed to toxic gasoline vapors containing benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, zylene and other dangerous chemicals."

The homes share a sewer line with a Marathon station with four underground storage tanks, and a drainpipe to keep water from entering the tanks. An EPA investigation found that "groundwater-contaminated by leaked, spilled and overflow gasoline from the tank system had repeatedly and illegally been discharged into the sanitary sewer main whenever it rained" and that United Petroleum and High Point made no "effort to determine how toxic gas vapors originating from the station were penetrating the homes," according to the complaint.

The Fire Department was repeatedly and "documented the presence of gasoline vapors inside each of the homes," and also "noted a strong smell of gasoline outside the homes and in the yards."

United Petroleum and High Point were ordered to conduct a "site check to determine whether a leak, spill, or overflow of gasoline had occurred." A BUSTR (Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations) inspection determined the tanks were "not in compliance with Ohio Administrative Code and issued it a citation for failing to perform periodic inspection of equipment," the complaint states.

The reports confirmed that the "gasoline odors in the homes originated from the Marathon station property, and at a minimum had released 1,476 gallons of gasoline into the sanitary sewer main," according to the complaint.

The gasoline station changed hands many times over the years. The homeowners also claim from "1979 and until September 2009 Parma Fire, the City of Parma Building Department, EPA and BUSTR and the Sewer District have all assured them that the gasoline odors in their homes were not caused by the tank system at the station property." They were told the odors came from other sources such as "cooking, natural gas, or sewage gases."

The homeowners seek compensatory and punitive damages for property damage, property devaluation, cleanup, personal injury, pain and suffering, emotional distress and medical monitoring.

Named as defendants are Prime Properties Limited Partnership, High Point Marathon Ltd., United Petroleum Marketing, Petroleum Station Properties; Emro Marketing Co., Speedway SuperAmerica, Marathon Petroleum Co., Chevron and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.The homeowners are represented by Jack Landskroner with Landskroner, Grieco & Madden.

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