Gallatin Town Creek Sign

The source of a mysterious petroleum leak along Town Creek in Gallatin remains unknown.

As an investigation continues into the source of a mysterious petroleum leak along Town Creek in Gallatin, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) officials say approximately $1 million has already been spent to help reduce foul odors for residents in the area.

In September, state contractors concluded a one-year investigation of facilities with active or previously active underground storage tanks along East Main Street and Hartsville Pike, according to Kim Schofinski, deputy communications director for TDEC.

Investigations were also conducted along the greenway and in the nearby residential neighborhood around Perrolee Street, Morton Avenue and Barton Drive.

However, the findings “did not conclusively identify a single source of the petroleum contamination,” according to Schofinski.

“Based on data collected and analyzed to date, there are not any active releases from the former or current (underground storage tank) facilities,” she added. “However, there is evidence of petroleum contamination at two of the current facilities that may be from historic operations.”

Last summer, officials say crews injected activated carbon into the ground to help absorb the petroleum-based products still in the bedrock and reduce the unpleasant odor affecting residents in the area.

The total cost of the remediation work had topped $1 million as of February and was being paid for by TDEC’s Division of Underground Storage Tanks, according to Schofinski.

While there have still been some reports of foul smells in the area, Gallatin Stormwater Utility Manager Lance Wagner said his office has received fewer overall complaints about the issue in recent months.

“To me, the smell is down quite a bit from where it was two and three years ago,” he added, attributing the decline to the work TDEC has been performing in the area.

City officials first started receiving reports of a sporadic foul smell along the greenway in 2016. While the odor continued to get stronger, it took two years until the first seep was located. In the fall of 2018, the investigation was then turned over to TDEC’s Division of Underground Storage Tanks after testing found petroleum constituents present in the groundwater samples.

Officials say they are still not sure how much petroleum still remains underground. However, previous water and air sampling performed by TDEC found that the low concentrations of the substance in the area were not flammable or dangerous to the public.

Additional investigations are still being planned, according to Schofinski. All of the data will then be used to develop a corrective action plan to clean up the affected areas.

In September, new signs were placed along the greenway to inform the public about the ongoing long-term cleanup efforts that are taking place in the area. Approximately 480 letters were also mailed earlier that year to nearby residents regarding the investigation and remediation efforts being conducted by the state.

As more rain occurs in the coming months, Wagner said he expects there will be more reports of unpleasant odors in the area.

“We’ve had less rain than we had in 2018 and 2019… so because of that there is less water flowing through the ground,” he added. “As we dry out in mid-summer into the fall, those (complaints) should go down again.”

For more information about the Town Creek Greenway project visit www.gallatintn.gov/1934/Town-Creek-Greenway-Project or contact the Gallatin Engineering Division at (615) 451-5965.