Mechanic facing costly clean-up

AN Albury mechanic yesterday lit a fire to highlight how his property was contaminated with fuel that has left him with a clean-up bill of nearly $1 million.

Stephen Bowdren owns the former BP and Caltex service station site on the corner of Young Street and Borella Road.

He invited The Border Mail to his property yesterday to see how he had been left with contaminated soil.

Fuel almost filled a metre-long plastic tube he used to take a water sample from an underground well at the site.

The BP station was forced to close in May after it failed to meet a clean-up deadline issued by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The authority feared people were at risk of inhaling vapours from the contamination on land near the station.

Mr Bowdren said Caltex, which operated a station there until about two years ago, took samples from about nine wells at the site on Monday for a report for the EPA.

Mr Bowdren operates a car care business at the site, but is not allowed to run a service station there until a clean-up is complete.

He said an investigation, which he commissioned, found it would cost $904,000 to decontaminate the block.

Caltex had installed pipes and tanks in 2000, which had leaked fuel into the ground.

“They failed to get them tested and so they’ve rusted up and leaked everywhere,” he said.

“(Caltex is) trying to say the leak was there before they leased it (in 2000).

“They’re a big international company; if I took them to court I wouldn’t have the shirt on my back.”

He claimed Caltex had known about the leak for years, but it would not take responsibility.

Caltex would not comment on the issue yesterday.

In a letter to Mr Bowdren and his wife, Paula, dated October 1, Caltex said it would not accept liability for the leak.

Mr Bowdren was prompted to call The Border Mail after reading about the plight of South Albury resident Mark Middleton.

He cannot grow vegetables in his yard after fuel leaked at a former Caltex fuel depot, next to his Olive Street home, more than 12 years ago.

A report by Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation in 2006 showed harmful levels of fuel in the water underneath Mr Bowdren’s property.

It showed a plume of fuel under the site had spread to the property’s Young Street barrier.

It was “extremely likely” that contamination had spread off-site beyond the western boundary, where an Aldi supermarket would be built.

But consultant James Laycock, of Blue Planning, said the Aldi supermarket site had been cleared for development by an environmental consultancy firm.

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