EXCLUSIVE: Discovery of Storage Tanks Halts Portions of Wheeling Streetscape; WVDEP Testing Unknown "Materials"
A member of the WVDOT Public Relations team confirmed previously unidentified storage tanks containing unknown "material" will be tested and disposed of early next week. This story will be updated.
*This is a breaking news story exclusive to the Hudson Household Editorial. This story will be updated as requests for comment are returned*
TO READ AN UPDATE PUBLISHED MONDAY, APRIL 17, CLICK HERE.
TO READ AN UPDATE PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, CLICK HERE.
Brief updates are also available at the end of this article.
A portion of the Wheeling Streetscape Project has seen work stopped after the discovery of previously unidentified storage tanks. The area affected sits at the intersection of 16th Street, Main Street, and the Nailers Ways Extension, along Wheeling Creek.
Some members of the community have reported an odor in the area. One person described it as a “gasoline, but sweeter,” type of smell. I was not able to verify this odor on Friday, but have experienced a foul smell at this intersection previously. Others have expressed concern for potential leaks into the Ohio River.
Sources familiar with the project have told me there were two “railcar tanks” discovered. A member of the Public Relations team for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Jennifer Dooley, confirmed on Friday, April 14, that storage tanks had been excavated, but did not provide a specific number. Dooley did not describe the tanks as “railcar tanks” in our communications, instead calling them “storage tanks.”
Dooley confirmed that work in the area had stopped and that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had been alerted immediately after their discovery. The WVDEP has conducted a site visit. Dooley stated that the “material [in the storage tanks] will be identified and properly disposed of by early next week [week of April 16].” Crews were observed on Friday, April 14, sitting on the tank with a hose attached to it, presumably extracting material for testing.
A city employee speaking off the record stated, in their opinion, the tanks did not appear to be railcars after being shown a picture. A similar situation occurred with previously unidentified storage tanks at the WV Northern Community College parking lot that was constructed in 2021. The parking lot sits directly across the street from the recently discovered tanks.
It is unclear who buried the tanks or when they were buried. They are visible from the Main Street bridge which crosses Wheeling Creek. A request for comment was submitted on Friday morning to the WVDEP Charleston Headquarters, but no reply has been received. An attempt to get a comment from the WVDEP field office in Wheeling was unsuccessful as the only employee on site was the office secretary.
This is one of several issues with this portion of the Wheeling Streetscape Project. The Wheeling City Council in June 2020 approved more than $38,000 in funding for a contract with Wallace & Pancher, INC, to construct the Nailers Way extension. The road was completed and opened to traffic in June of 2022.
Within six months the street was closed again and torn up. Dooley confirmed the ongoing work is to install a storm drainage system. This project allegedly took “three years of planning,” yet the storm drainage system was not installed originally. A request for comment on why the street had been built in 2022 without the storm drainage system has not been answered.
This story will be updated as requests for comment are received from the WVDOT, the WVDEP, and the City of Wheeling.
UPDATE: On Monday, April 17, crews were shown digging at the site and what is presumed to be the storage tank can be seen in multiple pieces at ground level. Read the update by clicking here.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, April 19, a spokesperson from WVDEP confirmed crews had removed the storage tank. Only one storage tank was found. This tank contained “what appeared to be water” and was partially filled with sand. An odor of aged diesel fuel was observed. The water was pumped out for testing, and the sand was removed for testing. Testing will be conducted by Miller Environmental of Ohio and results will be submitted to WVDEP. The WVDEP does not believe this situation poses any threat to Wheeling Creek or the Ohio River. Read the full update by clicking here.
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