Critics oppose Carmel gas station planned near aquifer

July 17, 2013
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Citizens Energy Group is leading the opposition to a gas station planned for 146th Street and River Road on the edge of Carmel, saying it is too close to a major source of central Indiana’s drinking water.

Anderson-based Ricker Oil Co. wants to erect a 4,200-square-foot building to house a fueling station, convenience store and Subway restaurant at the undeveloped southwest corner of the intersection. It plans eight gas pumps on the 1.5-acre site.

The property’s zoning has allowed for a gas station there since 2007, but controversy is surfacing this summer as Ricker’s seeks city approval of its construction plans.

Members of the Carmel Plan Commission heard from Ricker’s and a half-dozen opponents—including Citizens—at a Tuesday evening meeting. Its special studies committee will review the project again next month.

Citizens has three high-capacity groundwater wells less than 2,000 feet from the site, said Jeff Willman, the utility’s director of external affairs, and a total of 24 wells are located within two miles.

Consultant Geoff Glanders, principal hydrogeologist for August Mack Environmental Inc. (and a 25-year Carmel resident) called the property “the worst possible location” for gas station, given the sandy soil and its proximity to “one of the most prolific and vulnerable aquifers in the state.”

“All gas stations leak,” he said, and contaminated soil and groundwater take decades to clean up. Aquifers never fully recover.

Ricker’s representative Joseph Scimia, a real estate attorney with Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, said the company “absolutely agrees” that it’s crucial to safeguard the water supply.

To that end, he spelled out a range of protective steps the company plans to take, including monitoring wells, triple-walled storage tanks with built-in leak detection, double-walled piping with protective coating, and an underground containment area and filtering system for storm water runoff. Such measures exceed current safety requirements in the heavily regulated industry, Scimia said.

Although he spent considerable time during his presentation addressing the issue, Scimia also reminded Plan Commission members that their role is to review the development plan and project design—not appropriate uses for the property.

“The city’s legislative body made that determination for you,” he said of the City Council, which OK’d zoning for the site as part of a planned unit development ordinance in 2007. “You neither have the power nor the discretion to overturn or ignore” that decision.

Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider, who also chairs the Plan Commission’s special studies committee, said the panel will discuss the project with city engineers and utilities department staff before making a recommendation. No permits are issued for any project until all relevant departments sign off on the plans.

Rider was not serving on the council when the PUD ordinance passed, but longtime member Ron Carter was and now regrets including gas stations among the permitted uses.

“I wish we had not done that,” he said at Monday’s council meeting, saying the aquifer is “extremely important to all of us in Carmel and the surrounding communities.”

Indeed, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear and Fishers Town Council President John Weingardt are among the critics who submitted letters to the Plan Commission opposing the project.

What’s your take on the controversy?

  • We all make mistakes...
    Listen, we all make mistakes can clearly the Council allowing a gas station (no matter how many environmental precautions are taken) in that location was an oversight. We cannot jeopardize a water source such as this for the sake of a convenient gas station location. If there is no way to block a station from going in to that location and only the approval of the design, then only approve the design if there are eight "pumps" for recharging electric-only vehicles ;)
  • We all make mistakes...
    Listen, we all make mistakes can clearly the Council allowing a gas station (no matter how many environmental precautions are taken) in that location was an oversight. We cannot jeopardize a water source such as this for the sake of a convenient gas station location. If there is no way to block a station from going in to that location and only the approval of the design, then only approve the design if there are eight "pumps" for recharging electric-only vehicles ;)
  • Agree
    I agree that we should not risk putting up any commercial operations that would risk a town's water supply, however I also think that stretch of 146th st is due for a gas station, and would suggest using the empty lot at the Northeast corner of 146th St and Carey Rd. Thanks!
  • Mistakes compound
    I agree we need a station in the area Jillian. The correct location for that station was at Gray with a park surrounding it. Until the NIMBYs prevailed. It's their paranoia that's causing this mismatch between location and use. Go back to the old plan of station PLUS mandatory natural area around it instead of this.
  • Ricker
    The problem here is that there is not a single party here that is "wrong". Ricker is correct in saying that the use has already been approved and that the area is ripe for a station. The others are correct in worrying about leakage near the aquifer. Perhaps an equitable solution is for the cities to (collectively) purchase this particular parcel (and the other sensitive tracts also) and turn it into a public park. This would not only prevent future issues of the like from arising, but would give Ricker the necessary funds to find an alternative location. Just a thought.
  • Continue Pumping Water, Not Gas
    I don't live in Carmel, and I am not an envorinmentalist, but the Artesian Well in Carmel has been pumping out water for as long as I can remember, and as far as I know will continue long after I am gone. Why risk screwing it up. To put a gas station so close to this almost miracle of nature might never ba a problem, but if it becomes a problem it would likely be irrevereable. Leave "well" enough alone.
  • gas station
    Could not agree more, we should not risk something as critical as the water supply for thousands of residents for one more gas station.
  • Klein
    They should have allowed a gas station when Kroger wanted to put one in at Hazel Dell and 146th. That is the most appropriate place for a gas station thru the whole 146th St corridor.
  • Reject Ricker's at 146th and River
    Not only has Councilman Carter stated that he wishes they hadn't included the gas station in the PUD, I believe I've read in the press that he said he did not realize it was an approved use. That certainly calls the whole process into question. Regardless, I love the creative solutions in these comments. As to the convenience, I live down the street a mile or so to the south of this proposed gas station. There's already a gas station at 37 and 146th and others close by in Fishers. I'm happy to drive there to avoid the risk. By the way, didn't Carmel oppose the plans for a gas station at 146th and Hazel Dell based on water concerns? This seems like a riskier location so what gives?
  • Nimby consequences
    So here we are. Having allowed the NIMBY's to influence the decision on the original more ideal location we are presented with the unintended consequence. Kudo's to Carter for owning up to an oversight. As far as the expert testimony I'm good with it as long as the 2 persons discussed aren't area residents. If they are it creates a definite bias.
  • Existing locations
    Aside from the NIMBY protests, the 146th/Gray location would have created more traffic issues that already exist along this route. How about utilizing one of the outlots in one of the existing strip malls along the north side of 146th?

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