Ethanol leak sends emergency crews scrambling to keep residents safe

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It may have been a perfect night to sleep with the windows open, but early Monday morning, residents living along Kramers Lane near the Rubbertown and Shively area were urged to close those windows and stay inside after an Ethanol spill at 4920 Kramers Lane. One of the two 24-hour monitoring crews noticed the leak during their safety rounds.

A blend of 97% ethanol, 3% gasoline was misting out of a 8,000 gallon tank around 3:30 Monday morning. The Lake Dreamland Fire Department responded with other emergency and environmental crews.

"The facility personnel are estimating somewhere between 4,000 - 5,000 gallons that they lost," said Lake Dreamland Fire Department Asst. Chief Jody Meiman.

They first tackled the situation by spraying foam around the area to trap the odor, which can be dangerous in large quantities. A piece of wood was used to stop the leak, while the remaining ethanol blend was placed into another tank at the facility.

"It's a bulk distribution facility; we have nine above ground storage tanks that serve wholesale and retail customers in the Louisville area," said John Neal with Marathon.

With all that fuel on site - combined with the leaking container - crews scrambled to find the best way to attack the problem, first of all spraying a chemical down to create a blanket.

"The layer of foam suppresses any type of vapors and it lowers your explosive limits," Meiman said.

Crews then jammed a piece of wood into the hole to plug it while the fuel drained into another tank.  While all of that was taking place, crews sounded five emergency sirens, activating a "Shelter In Place" warning so that people would know it was advised to stay inside and close windows.

The wind direction and speed was a concern, which also prompted that warning.

"The fire department didn't know if they'd be able to stop the leak, you don't know much the tank contains, and it's always wise I think when you may have a container that's full and you don't know to take that precautionary measure," MetroSafe Executive Doug Hamilton.

While it may have been a startling sound, it was one welcomed by neighbors.

"We heard the sirens this morning so we got up and turned the TV on and we got dressed and waited until we heard it was all clear," resident Mary Murphy said.

Where the wind could blow the fumes was the big concern officials had for area residents.

"Ethanol is a inhalation hazard in high concentrations and can cause respiratory problems," Hamilton said.

Just before 6 a.m., that warning was lifted. No injuries were reported, and it isn't clear how much Ethanol was released.

The facility, one of two that service Marathon gas stations in the area, contains nine large storage tanks.

The cause of the leak - now estimated to have been about 4,000 to 5,000 gallons - is being  investigated, and environmental crews and emergency responders were still at the scene hours after the leak was first reported.

The following roads were closed until around 8 a.m. - Kramers Lane, Bubbling Over Drive, and Campground Road, but have since re-opened.

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