5 on Your Side: Subdivision seepage

10:43 PM, Nov 14, 2012   |    comments
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St. Louis County (KSDK) - Residents in a St. Louis County subdivision are fed up. They've put up with a messy situation for too long. 5 on Your Side's Mike Rush shows us how this problem has been creeping up on neighbors for almost 15 years, with no end in sight, until now.

"The smell is awful. It's like gas and I keep worrying about the smell," said homeowner Shirley Williams. "Because I'm thinking okay it's gas and someone's going to come along one day and throw a match and it's just going to go up in flames."

The Williams family is dealing with a big stinky, muddy mess that's slowly making its way toward their home.

"It's getting worse and worse and worse every year," said Billy Williams.

They're talking about this seepage problem at the corner of Kingsgate and Lusher in St. Louis County. The Williams have attempted to tackle the problem since they moved in five years ago and trustees of the Northgate Estates started asking for help in 1998.

David Trampe is a former subdivision trustee.

"I've got a photograph here that shows the beginning of the contamination," said Trampe.

They've called every state and local agency they could think of, but the problem just won't go away.

"Well, each of the reports from the Department of Natural Resources Office, they're asking for different things to be analyzed at different points and for different contamination substances," said Trampe. "It's a continual request and answering situation."

5 on Your Side wanted answers. A call to Missouri's Department of Natural Resources lead us to the Missouri Attorney General's office. Based on high levels of contamination in 2003, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit in 2006 against Gene Warmann, owner of the Bob's Sunoco on Redman Road. The gas station is gone, replaced by a Quik Trip, but the suit claimed problems remained.

We spoke with Missouri's Deputy Attorney General, Joe Dandurand.

"That's our allegation is that the gasoline caused ground contamination," said Dandurand. "Our belief is that it was caused by the Redman site and seepage from the tanks at that site."

Both state and independent agencies have tested the seepage periodically since that time, with levels not considered a danger. Still the mess remains. 5 on Your Side asked the Deputy Attorney General what's taking so long.

"It would make it difficult for us as the attorney general to go into court and say judge make them pay or jury make them pay and then they look at you and say make them pay for what, make them do what," said Dandurand. "If there's not a contamination level, what are you asking us to do? What is your authority?"

The Missouri AG's office says its hands are tied but has ordered the area tested again because of our inquiry. The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District thinks homeowners have dealt with this problem far too long.

MSD spokesman Lance LeComb says they're taking action now.

"This appears to be a pass the buck, government thing, and it doesn't do anybody any good," said LeComb.

"We are going to take the lead and identifying what agency is responsible for enforcing this. What agency actually has the actual authority to do something about it, assess the problem, and make sure we get on the path to some sort of resolution," said LeComb. "Because this has been going on way too long, it's unacceptable, somebody needs to put their foot down and we're going to do that."

It's what Williams and his neighbors have waited years to hear.

"I'm elated about it, I'm overjoyed actually," said Williams.

5 on Your Side left messages for Gene Warmann, but our calls were not returned. MSD didn't have any idea how long it will take clean up the mess at Northgate Estates.

We'll stay on it and keep you posted.



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