Tallahassee Reports has learned that a reporter from WTXL TV contacted the City of Tallahassee in March of 2012 after receiving a tip about the diesel fuel spill at the Hopkins Generating Station.
An email obtained by TR shows that the reporter was provided erroneous information by the City of Tallahassee with regards to ground water contamination caused by the spill.
On March 19, 2012 Lizzy Kelley with the City’s Department of Communications sent an email describing the request made by the WTXL reporter to City of Tallahassee upper management.
In the email, Ms. Kelly explained the information she provided to the reporter after talking to the plant manager at Hopkins, Clark Sheehan.
I spoke with Clark a few times (thank you, Clark!) to get the basic information and to get answers to a couple follow up questions. He provided a lot of good information for me. The following portion of that information was shared with Kisha. When we last spoke, it sounded like it would not become a story.
The information she provided did not include an estimated size of the spill, instead the spill was characterized as a “very small percentage of what was in the tank.”
However, Ms. Kelley added in the March 19th email:
Citizens on wells in the area do not need to be alarmed. No diesel made it into the ground water. If it had, DEP would have begun notifications of both impacted citizens and the media immediately. (Emphasis added)
However, this is in direct conflict with the fact that ARCADIS reported on February 9th that diesel fuel was in the groundwater.
From the ARCADIS report:
2.3 Groundwater Assessment Summary
On February 9, 2012, LNAPL (diesel fuel) was detected in 17 temporary monitoring wells/soil borings as shown on Figure 5. The thickness of the free product varied from 0.01 foot in several wells to 2.72 feet at MW010. Based on these data, the free product occupies an estimated area of 47,432 square feet as shown on Figure 5. The average free product thickness was 0.5 foot.
The information was included in a formal report that was dated March 27, 2012.
In addition, there are several emails between city officials, DEP and ARCADIS that discuss diesel fuel being recovered from temporary wells.
For example, in an email dated February 21, 2012, John Powell of the city’s Environmental Policy and Energy Resources Department wrote:
We are still collecting free product from the temporary wells, although the amounts collecting in the wells are decreasing and they are primarily isolated to just two well locations.
Ultimately, ARCADIS reported that approximately 270,396 gallons of petroleum affected water was recovered.
Also, as late as January 2013 – one year after the spill – DEP was still raising questions about the groundwater contamination. In an email from DEP, Mr. Alex Webster, Cleanup Section Supervisor, stated:
Based on the information provided, we are unable to concur with your consultant’s recommendation to implement a Natural Attenuation Monitoring (NAM) Plan at this time. It does not appear that the extent of the groundwater contamination has been delineated. An additional well should be installed downgradient of MW-58. In addition, TMW-15 should be resampled to confirm Naphthalene is no longer present.
There is no evidence that the city ever provided this groundwater information to the local media after the WTXL communication in which the City of Tallahassee stated the groundwater had not been impacted by the spill.
The Hopkins Generation fuel leak, which occurred in 2012, was not reported in the local media until TR provided information in a report on April 9, 2017.