FAIRHOPE – Four fuel tanks that had been buried under the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street since the first half of the 20th century, were removed last week in preparation of the site becoming a city public space.
The excavation was filled in and covered in sod, Richard Johnson, Fairhope public works director, said. The pavers on the site will be replaced once the soil has settled.
“For the interim the sod was the best option to allow the excavated area to weather and compact,” Johnson said. “We thought about mulch or straw and our team felt that would render the site very harsh – the greenery of the sod softens the corner.”
The clock that has stood at the corner was removed during the excavation process to prevent it from being damaged. Johnson said the clock is at a local paint and fabrication shop. It will be soda-blasted down to the original metal and professionally repainted before being put back on the site. The work should take three or four weeks.
The Fairhope City Council voted Jan. 13 to buy the site at the at the northeast corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street. The city will pay half the purchase price of $525,000 with the Fairhope Single Tax Colony paying the rest of the cost. The site will become city property under the agreement.
The vote came after developer Max Bowers announced plans in 2019 to build a boutique hotel at the corner. Resident expressed concerns that the building would prevent access to the corner, which has been a popular downtown gathering spot for years.
Bowers agreed to modify plans for construction and sell a 26 by 60-foot parcel near the clock.
Before the purchase is complete, however, the site was to be tested for soil contamination from the tanks.
A car dealership was located at the site for decades during the 20th Century.
During the excavation, which started Aug. 3, workers found four tanks. Johnson said 1,220 gallons of liquid and sludge were found in the tanks. Most of the liquid is believed to be groundwater, but the material still has to be handled by a certified fuel jobber, he said.
The next step will be for an environmental consultant to give the city a soil constituent report on the soil removed from the site. The dirt will be sent to the Magnolia Landfill.
Johnson said the city should know the test results in about two weeks. After that, the environmental consultant will complete a closeout report to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Johnson said the city sanitation department will recycle the removed tanks and pipes.
The street landscape will be fully replaced in the early September changeout, he said.
“At some time in our future, hopefully rather quickly, we should receive a response from ADEM accepting our remediated site and informing us that no further action is required,” Johnson said. “If they have follow-up requirements, we will react accordingly.”