1 September 1982
by Ron Bartlett
Local officials averted a potentially dangerous situation early Saturday morning after they discovered that a Nassau Street service station had accidentally leaked gasoline into the sanitary sewer system. The gas was later detected in a Linden Lane home.
One official who responded to the accident scene said the gas fumes within the sewer lines could have exploded.
Members of Princeton’s Hook and Ladder fire company flushed the sewer lines containing gasoline, said assistant fire chief William Rodweller, alleviating the potential hazard. The leak was later determined to have originated at Princeton Exxon on Nassau Street.
John Neceda, an employee at the service station, said on Tuesday that Exxon engineers had determined that a leak in the piping running from one of the underground gas tanks had caused the problem. Mr. Neceda said the tank would be repaired and tested today (Sept. 1).
Police Chief Michael Carnevale said authorities found a “serious” situation on their hands when the problem was discovered Saturday morning, Mr. Rodweller agreed.
“It could have been very bad, had anything ignited those fumes.” the fire official said. “It was a very explosive mixture coming out of those manholes.”
At 1:04 a.m. on Saturday, a Linden Lane homeowner called police after detecting a strong odor of gasoline in the house. Chief Carnevale said. Police officers, members of the fire department, and Public Service workers responded immediately.
“The whole house was full of fumes.” said Mr. Rodweller.
Public Service determined that the problem was not originating from its lines, and officials began to suspect one of two Nassau Street service stations could be the cause.
Mr. Rodwcller said fire crews saw “traces of gas in the water in the sewer system,” and proceeded to flush out hydrants along Linden Lane. The gasoline, he theorized, had entered through cracks in the sewer line.
At daylight, officials noticed that when the Exxon station pumps began dispensing to customers, the gasoline in the sewer line began to flow more, and the station shut down its pumps.
Carl Delaney, an official from the state Department of Environmental Protection, visited the scene early Sunday morning. He could not be reached for comment.
By Sunday, tests on the flushed system showed that “everything was almost normal.” and there was “no danger of explosions.” said Mr. Rodweller.
The underground tank in question had been replaced recently by Exxon, the fire official noted.
George Olexa, the chairman of the joint Sewer Operating Committee, said Tuesday he had not been notified of the situation, although he said the gasoline could have caused damage to both the sewer pipes and the treatment plant had it gone undetected.