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Brookfield isn’t only place in need of help to demolish old, hazardous gas stations

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Next Tuesday, demolition will begin on an abandoned gas station in Brookfield, not only because it’s an eyesore but also because it’s a health hazard.

But Brookfield isn’t the only area in the Valley that has an issue with old gas stations.

What was once Palko’s Mill Creek Service Station now sits an abandoned gas station at Bears Den Road and Schenley Avenue on Youngstown’s west side.

Mark Ramahi, owner of the Mill Creek Deli next door, would love to see it gone.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a bad eyesore in this neighborhood. It’s a clean neighborhood, we should keep it that way,” he said.

“But it’s a major problem. This is a major problem,” said Ian Beniston, executive director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.

Beniston has a map of all the potential underground storage tanks in the city, 331 of which are old gas stations, auto shops or even laundromats that stored chemicals underground.

“You don’t want to go start digging in any of these lots and putting up a building and the next thing you know you got five 100-gallon tanks that you stumble upon and you’re like, ‘Oh crap,'” Beniston said.

On Route 62 in Brookfield, an old Fuel Express gas station will be demolished starting on Tuesday with a $250,000 grant from Ohio’s Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Program. It’s been abandoned for about 10 years.

The underground storage tanks there are leaking, which allowed the former gas station to qualify for state money.

“Gas stations are particularly tricky because we have to get rid of all this, but we also have to get rid of what’s below, and that’s true of anything that’s used in any industrial capacity… That’s why the ticket on this price is so high. It’s not just tearing down what we’re looking at, it’s removing the tanks underneath and all that,” said Matt Martin, executive director of the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

“Which is why we called our study ‘The City Unseen’ because just like we have the above-ground blight, we have the underground blight,” Beniston said.

Another old gas station sits on Glenwood Avenue in Youngstown, across from the Salvation Army, which Beniston estimates has been around since the 1920s. What’s exactly under the site isn’t clear.

“It’s a cumbersome process just to even get the phase one done, then you have to get a phase two which a much more detailed environmental assessment,” Beniston said.

At the Brookfield gas station, underground testing was done and when a problem was found, the decision was made to clean it up.

“I mean, this is literally a blight on the street, so I’m happy but I can’t imagine how much happier the people that live nearby are,” Martin said.

The city of Youngstown was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency grant last year to assess around 20 sites with underground storage tanks that are of major concern. Once that assessment is done, the plan is to apply for Ohio’s Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Grant to get the sites cleaned up.

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