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Route 66 News

Huge kerosene tank removed in front of El Garces

A previously unknown 20,000-gallon underground tank containing kerosene was dug up and removed from a park directly in front of the El Garces Hotel in Needles, Calif., a few days ago, reported the Mohave Daily News.

Needles public works director  Marc Richards explained how the tank was discovered:

Richards said the tank was discovered while crew members were digging to put in a 15-inch pipe for utility purposes. At present, the work being doing at the El Garces includes adding what is referred to as a civil package, which means infrastructure for utilities such as plumbing and electricity.

That work was interrupted when construction crews discovered the tank, he said. Because of the potential environmental concerns, it had to be removed.

Richards said the tank still had kerosene inside that was removed first. About 7,800 gallons of the liquid was removed.

Then the tank itself had to be dug out of the ground and removed, he said. This meant getting a crane to lift it out of the ground. It was then placed on a flatbed truck.

Richards speculated the tank was used by El Garces many decades ago for heating and lighting. No one was sure how long the tank had been there.

Unfortunately, the discovery likely will add a delay to the El Garces restoration project. It’s probable some of the kerosene leaked out, contaminating the soil. The soil must be removed and incinerated, and it’s uncertain how the city will pay for this.

El Garces opened in 1908 as a Harvey House, and the complex closed in 1988. Allan Affeldt, who guided the resurrection of La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz., is pursuing the restoration of El Garces.

(Hat tip to Jeff Meyer and Gerry Gall; image of El Garces by cogdogblog via Flickr)

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10 thoughts on “Huge kerosene tank removed in front of El Garces

  1. DynoDave

    Wow, that’s interesting. That’s a HUGE tank. And think how long that must have been there. How long has it been since kerosene was used for heat and light? Fascinating. And while it’s a delay, it’s certainly one you’d rather have now, than when the place is finished, opened for business. Can you image the damage 7800 gallons of fuel could cause?

  2. Steve

    Well Dave,,,I just imagine, somewhere at this moment, someone, is using kerosene, for cooking, lighting and for heat… Ever go to Home Depot in the winter, and notice all those kerosene space heaters? At 4.50 per gallon todays price, that kerosene is worth something… Hardly ever goes bad, like gasoline. The environmental company is probably laughing all the way to the bank…If it were gasoline, would be a much harder cleanup.

  3. Doc1

    If it had not leaked after all these years what makes them think any has leaked out?
    Sounds more like someone is trying to make a few dollars on what might have been and not really is
    Anytime I see something like this I am amazed
    There is more fuel dumped in the lakes and oceans daily by normal boat running compared to what harm this could possibly do

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      The reason you remove the tank is for the same reason you remove a buried case of dynamite.

      Even if the tank hadn’t leaked (a very big assumption), it would eventually. The kerosene would then find its way into the river or worse, the storm sewers, and cause all sorts of problems.

  4. Ron Warnick Post author

    El Garces closed in 1949. At a minimum, the kerosene was more than 60 years old. I doubt anything that old in a leaky storage container would be very pristine. And I’m sure, at minimum, hundreds of gallons leaked out. I hardly think anything of that nature would be a simple cleanup by a long shot.

  5. Doc1

    Ron reading the article they did not say that any did spill just that it was possible.
    I would venture to say that there was none spilled, if there were any leaks It would for sure would have showed up as soon as they pulled the tank up.
    I could see the kero being pumped out , but removing the tank was not really a have to do .
    It could have been filled in with wet sand or even mud.
    They could have drilled right thru the tank and kept running line just like they do roads and lakes
    There are thousands of old butane, gas, and kerosene/coal oil tanks around
    I Just think they have made this a bigger project/job that it needs to be

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      I am certain it is not wise to run electric and water lines through a large container that held a highly flammable liquid. Doc, with that kind of cavalier attitude, you must have smoked while pumping gas.

  6. TJ Pike

    Doc, it’s also very obvious you are very uninformed about both the FEDERAL laws pertaining to buried fuel tanks and all the hazards they do pose. Buried fuel tanks are one of the biggest drawbacks in preserving Route 66 properties because Federal laws say that they must be removed and any contamination cleaned up before restoration work can be completed. That work often can be many times the cost of whatever other restoration needs to be done to the property. Sure they removed 7,800 gallons — but how full was that tank when it was abandoned? Do you really want to be drinking and eating kerosene in your food? I surely don’t. And you need to take a trip to look at some new boats. There have been a number of laws put in place to greatly limit what they dump nowadays in our water system.

    Furthermore, I can assure you if it is a public road, and they run into buried tanks, construction is halted until it is dealt with. As a former highway worker, I can tell you that no road built with any kind of government funds is legally going to drill thru a tank, fill it in, and keep going like that doesn’t exist. Not only would that be dangerous and against the law, it could cause road failure later on. I’d say the city of Needles was darn lucky to discover this when they did, and I hope that clean up can be done quickly and in a financially sound manner.

  7. Doc1

    Ron,
    First off it is not even close to highly flammable. If you pour kerosene out on concrete or on a steel plate you can stick all the fire you want to on it and it will never burn
    Kerosene has to soak into something in order to burn, that is why all lamps have a wick and it is used on rags or wood that it can soak into. For a stove to work there was a paraffin/wax that the kerosene ran onto that burned to cook with
    I will say that what we call kerosene today may be more flammable and have a lower flash point.
    Jet fuel is a type of Kerosene but I snot what was in the tank
    I grew up with this stuff using it for cooking and lighting
    TJ, I give all of us the room of common sense that my comment would not be taken literally. I guess I was wrong
    Did they not consider other methods of removing the tank that could be cheaper
    Ok lets say that there was 15,000 gallons and it leaked down to the 7 ,000 plus, why did they say probable ? This tell me there is no sign of a leak so they will test and see.
    If that much has leaked out then they will never get it all cleaned up as it would be soaking down and out at the same time
    They are not building a public road they are laying utility lines
    They run lines thru metal tubes/now more plastic all the time
    The end of the tank could have been removed and a pipe laid down or ever how much needed
    As far as cleanup goes they can take a simple detergent such as dawn dishwashing liquid ,mix with water and saturate the area and it will dissipate the kerosene and residue
    The big oil spill in Louisiana and in Alaska that is what hey used
    I do understand boats as I own 5 of them, they still dump oil and gas residue in the water anytime it is running. Walk along the edge of any lake and watch the oil/gas film that comes out
    We sometimes take laws to literally and do not look at what the law actually means
    For years in texas you were fined for hunting from the road or from a vehicle. The courts would collect the fine. Until 1997 I believe it was, there was never a law that said you could not hunt form a road or a vehicle.
    It stated on a road from a moving vehicle. Finally a guy woke up and fought it and all those fines in the last two years went back to the person and thousands had to be paid to a charity
    It is the same with a fuel spill it depends on who spills and how much to even make it reportable

  8. DynoDave

    Hey Doc. Kero is definitely still used…I just stored my kero powered salamander for the summer a few weeks ago. But I have not seen a commercial building that used kero for heat and light in a very long time, as Ron confirms.

    If the kero is still good, filter it and reuse it. I have no problem with that. But after 60+ years underground, in a rusting steel tank, I can’t imagine it’s worth the trouble. As for leaks, time will tell. I hope there were none, but if there were, they’ll get it cleaned up. It’s just another step in the process.

    As someone who showers/washes/drinks well water, I’m NEVER in favor of seeing an old tank knowingly left buried. Get it out, and get it cleaned up. I’m probably one of the last people you’d label a tree hugger, but I’m glad the flaming river days are behind us.

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