Gasoline smell in KCMO neighborhood persists

Posted at 2:51 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 16:14:05-05

Investigators from Missouri's Department of Natural Resources and a company called Apex Envirotech checked street sewers on Walnut and Warwick Streets last week for gasoline fumes.

They found none.

However, those same investigators that same day confirmed a gas odor was coming from a bathroom on Josh Christophersen's Walnut Street home, where he lives with his wife and seven children.

Christophersen showed 41 Action News the bathroom which his five girls use.

"That's been a concern. It's just like it's concentrated in that little bathroom," said Christophersen. "I don't want my girls taking a shower for the danger of whatever that might be."

Repeat problem

41 Action News first showed a river of gasoline running through a neighborhood sewer in May. Investigators determined the source of that gas was a leaky tank at the Shell station at 38th and Main Streets.

According to documents exclusively obtained by 41 Action News, after the leaky tank was identified, it was mistakenly filled with gas again in June--causing another leak.

"I don't understand how that happened, how they would re-fill a tank that was compromised and off limits," said neighbor John Bier.

John and April Bier have also been living with the gas smell problem since April.

Their current solution is to cover up the drain in their downstairs shower--a shower they're not using because of the problem.

State investigators from Missouri's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have determined both the sanitary and storm sewer lines run directly underneath the Bier property.

While the problem isn't as bad now as it was in the early months, the Biers say any rain event can trigger the smell again.

"Lately I guess it's a combination of annoyance and stress," Bier said.

Still smelly

Over the course of the last nine months, records show, gas has been sucked out of the ground and the neighborhood sewer line has been repaired and lined.

But the problem persists, and there's a paper trail to show it:

  • Dec. 3: DNR sent a letter of warning to gas station owner Sayed Mohammed Asif requesting an overdue report on how he planned to fix the problem.
  • Dec. 21: DNR sends Asif a notice of violation followed when the report didn't come.
  • Jan. 4: Apex Envirotech sent DNR a letter on behalf of Asif explaining what was being done to figure out a solution.

"While the Department is pleased that progress has been made, the response indicates that the situation has not yet been resolved. In addition, the letter does not indicate what actions will be taken during the interim if the city is not able to make repairs within a reasonable time frame. As a result, the Department will pend it's decision regarding whether to refer this matter for enforcement for another two weeks." -- DNR letter, dated Jan. 7, 2016

Another DNR letter to Asif requested an update on repairs to fix the problem by January 22. But so far, DNR has not received that update.

According to a DNR representative, there's a special gas leak insurance fund to cover these issues. So he says the ongoing work by Apex to find a solution is not likely coming out of Asif's pocket.

Who's responsible?

Christophersen works at home and his seven children are home schooled. For his family and for the Biers and their young daughter, the seemingly elusive solution can't come quickly enough.

"This is not okay, it needs to get taken care of," Christophersen said. "I go to fill up my car at the gas station and as soon as I smell it, I'm just disgusted because I'm so sick of the smell."

"It seems as if there should be somebody responsible for cleaning it up no matter what," said April Bier.

41 Action News went to the gas station and spoke to a man at the counter who said he was not the owner Asif. We left our contact information for the owner, but have not received a response to our request for an interview.

WATCH: Our report from May 2015