HOLLIDAYSBURG - Test samples taken from a Bedford Street construction site in the borough's Gaysport neighborhood have confirmed the presence of petroleum-related chemicals in the soil and groundwater.
P. Joseph Lehman Inc. engineers retrieved the samples June 17 after a contractor uncovered groundwater at 10 feet that was "discolored to a blueish gray and had petroleum odors," according to Lehman's report.
The report went on to state that "The results of the soil and groundwater sampling shows that soils ... have been impacted by a petroleum substance, as has groundwater."
The digging crew had been working to replace a sewer line along the street's 400 block.
Borough officials received the results July 12 and then forwarded the information to the Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz confirmed that the water and soil showed petroleum components, trimethylbenzene and benzene, at levels above state health standards.
She noted that the levels aren't deadly, but "contact or ingestion wouldn't be advisable."
DEP officials will be present for an Aug. 5 site dig to try and determine the extent of the contamination and begin an investigation to find its source, she said.
Borough Manager Mark Schroyer said an outside company will be conducting the dig.
Kasianowitz said finding a source will take time, and if it can't be determined, DEP may pay to remove and replace the contaminated soil.
"Sometimes you can't find the responsible party," she said, "but it needs to be cleaned up."
A few neighbors have speculated the leak was caused by the now-shuttered BCO Mart, a convenience store and gasoline station once located near the contamination site, but Schroyer said there currently is no established connection to Blair County Oil & Supply.
A company secretary who did not give her name said President Fred Marchi was not interested in commenting on the test results.
Kasianowitz said residents can breathe easy, as other testing has shown that the contamination is along only the main sewer line, not lateral lines that run through residents' yards.
"The vapors can travel," she said, and it's possible nearby neighbors could have smelled the fumes in their house, but none are in danger of exposure.
She also said while DEP won't know the cause immediately after the dig, "We'll have a better picture of what we encountered."
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.