Rincon City Council gave approval Tuesday night to the final site plans for O’Reilly Auto Parts, but there is still some question about what is — or isn’t — under the ground at the proposed site.
O’Reilly plans to open a store at 7th Street and Highway 21 where a service station once stood. Council members had asked developers to inspect the site to make sure no underground tanks were left.
City planner LaMeisha Hunter told council members Tuesday night that TerraCon had used ground-penetrating radar and their results revealed no tanks.
“What they believe is that someone took those tanks and took them somewhere,” she said.
But Council member Paul Wendelken still wondered about the findings from the inspection.
“From this report, they can’t confirm it either way,” he said. “I know (the tanks) existed. There was a gas station there. I just want to know what can happen and what responsibility we have.”
TerraCon’s report said there appears to be a 12x20 slab below the surface, but they couldn’t determine what it was. Wendelken also questioned that if underground tanks still exist and there is a problem in the future from those tanks contaminating the soil, what would the city’s liability be if they approved the site plans.
City Attorney Raymond Dickey said the city has some immunity but there are ways to litigate around sovereign immunity. Dickey added the city and O’Reilly’s appeared to have used all due diligence.
“I don’t know what else you can do, other than digging the place up,” he said. “You’ve used state of the art equipment.”
Soil tests also showed that there has been contamination from petrochemicals. Neither Wendelken or neighbors to the property recalled if the service station’s tanks were below ground or above ground.
Dickey said the state Environmental Protection Division showed no tanks existing on the site and also showed no record of tanks being removed.
Council members also only approve site plans if the petitioner is present, but Mayor Ken Lee said the council could break from that in this instance. O’Reilly’s is headquartered in Springfield, Mo., and tornadoes there heavily damaged the airport, making it difficult for O’Reilly’s representatives to leave.