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Utica officials monitoring water system after underground gas leak at Culver Avenue Sunoco

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - If you passed by the Sunoco gas station at the corner of Culver Avenue and Albany Street in Utica late Monday morning, you couldn't help but notice a strong odor of gasoline coming from behind a wall of yellow tape which is keeping cars from driving in to fill up.

Utica Assistant Fire Chief George Clark tells NEWSChannel 2 that workers at the Sunoco station called the D.E.C. around 10 a.m. on Monday morning after smelling the odor themselves and noticing that the gas levels in their underground system had dropped considerably.

The D.E.C. then called the Utica Fire Department, and both were on scene within minutes.

The Sunoco station is the only gas station right along that particular section of East Utica and it is where many fill up, but Clark says they won't be filling up there Monday, or in the days ahead.

Officials say the re-opening all depends on how long it takes crews to clean up the gas.

Clark says that some gasoline did get into the city's sewer lines, but not into a nearby creek, but that creek will be continually monitored.

Mohawk Valley Water Authority Executive DIrector Patrick Becher confirms the situation is being monitored, but he wants to remind city residents that the drinking water lines are pressurized and sealed, so there is no threat of gasoline getting into their drinking water.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Spill response team is overseeing the cleanup process.

No word on how long the cleanup will take and ultimately when the Sunoco station will reopen.

Some East Utica residents actually started smelling the gas leak as early as Sunday morning, a full day before the cause of the smell was determined to be the Sunoco gas leak.

Annemarie Spina, who lives on Culver Avenue near Poe Street, says she first smelled the gas around 3:45 A.M. on Sunday.

Spina says she thought it might have been paint fumes, but the odor was so strong, she called the Utica Fire Department.

Firefighters had her, her husband and four children evacuate.

"They had all of us leave the house until they discovered where the smell was coming from," she said. "We sat in our truck with the heat on and about 15 minutes later they discovered it was coming from the sewer."

Firefighters brought in large fans and vented the Spina home.

Annemarie says her family was just the first to call the fire department but she was told by firefighters her family probably wouldn't be the last.

"They had said that I was the first call and that it was going to be a very busy day," she said. "And then when I woke up the next morning, the fire department responded to several other homes, in fact one of them was my neighbor."

Assistant Fire Chief Clark confirms firefighters did respond to several homes throughout the day on Sunday for venting, but again the cause of the smell wasn't known until the Sunoco call to the D.E.C. Monday morning.

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