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19 Tanks Found Under Former Straub Lot in Wheeling

Photo by Joselyn King A large pit has taken over the parking lot at 16th and Main streets in downtown as workers remove 19 tanks from the property.

WHEELING — Construction crews started work in May to remove what was believed to be just two empty gasoline tanks under the former Straub Honda lot in downtown Wheeling.

Since then, workers have uncovered as many as 19 tanks under the property, located at 16th and Main streets.

A large swimming pool-sized hole and excavation equipment now encompass the property.

Ohio County Commission President Tim McCormick said work could begin as soon as Monday to fill in the pit.

The county owns the lot, which was closed in late 2018 due to subsidence. Early this year, commissioners agreed to remediate the lot, fill it in, level it off, then turn it over to West Virginia Northern Community College.

“We thought it was just going to be easy peasy,” McCormick said.

He said commissioners had information indicating just two tanks needed to be removed from under the property, but he isn’t certain where that information came from.

Commissioners are presently working with the state Department of Environmental Protection on the issue, according to McCormick.

“Back in the 30s, there was a gas station here, and an auto repair business.,” he said. “Up until 1984, there were no regulations on what you could put underground.

“We were told initially there were two empty gas tanks. Since then they have taken out 19 tanks — nine were fuel tanks, and 10 were lubricating oil tanks.”

A lot of ground pollution also was created, so 4,100 tons of contaminated soil was removed, according to McCormick.

Jimmie Harper Construction of Vienna, Wood County, is in charge of the work.

Initial costs for the project had been set for $30,000 to $35,000. He acknowledged the price tag now is well beyond that amount, but isn’t certain of the final costs.

“Hopefully, we will start filling in Monday with clean dirt,” McCormick said. “Once we get it filled, and get it leveled back off, Northern will take it over. As far as I know, they are putting in a parking lot there.

“That corner of town won’t look like it used to.”

He isn’t certain how much longer the work will take, but believes the dry weather should assist in facilitating completion of the project.

“We’re doing it the right way, so there won’t be any more problems whatsoever,” McCormick said. “We’re trying to do our part so Northern can beautify that part of town.”

Commissioner Randy Wharton said he wasn’t surprised by the discovery of the large number of tanks.

“It is my understanding that it is not unusual in downtown Wheeling to find all kinds of things when you dig under the road,” he said.

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