A suspected gasoline spill continues to flush out of the Lost River Cave system, but officials involved in the investigation believe the end might be in sight.
More than three months ago, Lost River Cave staff discovered a gasoline odor emitting from the cave. Boat tours were suspended for about six weeks during the subsequent investigation by local officials and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, which declared an emergency April 29 to expedite funding and hire a contractor to examine storage tanks at nine nearby gas stations.
Kevin Strohmeier, response coordinator for the Environmental Response Branch of the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, has led the investigation since mid-April. On April 24, he began utilizing a portable chemical detector, called a multiRAE, to record the levels of volatile organic compounds – gases or vapors emitted from products or processes – at Lost River Cave, a multi-family home and a sinkhole off Nashville Road.
At the Lost River Cave entrance, the VOC levels have remained very low or weren’t detectable throughout the investigation. On April 24, at the highest point, total VOCs reached 6.4 parts per million. The levels returned to a non-detect (0 ppm) by April 26. Subsequent readings continued to capture non-detects.
“Big picture, for the Lost River Cave folks, this exposure has been very minimal” and never exceeded safety standards, Strohmeier said.
At a multi-residential home on Lost Circle, there were detectable odors and VOCs on April 10. The levels became non-detects after a nearby limestone crevice was ventilated.
“The exposure was taken care of within the first few days (of discovering an odor),” Strohmeier said.
At a slim sinkhole near Nashville Road, the levels were much higher. Strohmeier recorded elevated VOC levels from April 24-28, including a 118 ppm reading April 25. Afterward, the levels remained at or below 10 ppm with the exception of a few spikes that seemed to correlate with heavy rains.
“When we get a rainfall, we get a spike in the readings,” Strohmeier said. “We’re getting a rise in the water subterranean streams, and its flushing gasoline that’s been lodged in rocks and crevices. As it moves, it volatilizes in the air. That’s why we’re getting the detections.”
At 10 a.m. June 22, the reading spiked to 200 ppm. Within 24 hours of the spike, the readings dropped to 20 ppm and have since returned back to below 10 ppm.
Though the source of the spill remains unsolved, Strohmeier believes the actual remnants of the gasoline spill will soon be washed away.
“I think our endpoint is when we get significant rains and we don’t get a reading above (something like) 20 ppm,” Strohmeier said. “That’s when I’ll feel like we’ve flushed out the residual gasoline from our systems.”
– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggers dailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.
The Capitol Arts Center’s ailing HVAC system has been replaced by a newer, more efficient model, which should allow the venue to expand its performance offerings.
Tom Carto, president and CEO of the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, which operates the Capitol, said the previous HVAC system was in place since the Capitol was renovated in the early 1980s and had not been reliable for several years.
“It’s all done now and it’s working great and we’re thrilled,” he said of the new system.
While the Capitol is home to a few recurring events such as Lost River Sessions and the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, Carto said issues with the HVAC system meant SKyPAC was at times unwilling to expand programming at the Capitol for fear of the HVAC shutting off before an event.
Keeping the HVAC system operational has been a frequent headache, Carto said.
“We constantly were having to put Band-Aids on the system to keep it running,” he said.
Additionally, the HVAC units on the roof had a tendency to leak, which caused damage Carto described as “mostly aesthetic.”
Carto said the new system’s reliability restores the Capitol’s viability as a venue for smaller events that a facility as large as SKyPAC might not be suited to host.
“That will improve our programming, because we’re going to be able to do more diverse and more intimate programming in the Capitol,” he said.
Now that the Capitol has a reliable HVAC system, Carto said SKyPAC will soon announce a series of movie screenings at the Capitol that will focus on family films and documentaries.
The replacement of the Capitol’s HVAC system, along with some roof repairs, are part of a larger countywide project that James Marcrum, superintendent of the Warren County Justice Center, has been a key player in implementing.
“We want to thank the county for including us in that project,” Carto said. “Obviously, it was much needed.”
Marcrum said the project intends to upgrade the lighting, heating and cooling in all county buildings and is being conducted through a $5.7 million contract between the county and Energy Savings Group. Marcrum said the project is being funded via a loan from the state and he estimates that the full project will likely be finished by October.
Marcrum said the need to replace the Capitol’s HVAC system has been known for a while but the funds have not been available in previous years.
“Something was needed for a long time,” he said. “We just didn’t have the money.”
The installation of the new HVAC system, which began in March and was finished about two weeks ago, makes the Capitol a more attractive venue for audiences and event organizers.
“It makes it more user-friendly, it makes it more presentable. It makes it so people actually want to rent it,” he said.
– Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.
Current job title: Attorney
Hometown: Bowling Green
Family members: Beth (wife) and Conor and Collins (children)
The one thing no one knows about me is ... I can’t blow a bubble with bubble gum.
My dream job is ... catamaran captain.
My first job was ... as a runner at the law firm of Harlin Parker. I can still vividly remember chauffeuring the late Jerry Parker to a meeting in my topless Jeep CJ-7 one muggy August afternoon while he sweated profusely in a dark suit. He never asked for a ride again.
The best advice I ever got was ... “Everybody should experience jail at least once in their life” – Hon. Steve A. Wilson.
My hero (and why) is ... my wife. She makes me a better person.
If I could do it all over again, I ... would have confirmed more things in writing.
The part of my job I could do without is ... dealing with completely unreasonable people.
The one thing I always carry with me is ... a good luck charm in the form of a $25 shamrock tattoo I got on my ankle when I was 16 years old.
The best meal I ever had was ... any long meal with family and/or friends at a quality restaurant that includes multiple bottles of wine and a chocolate dessert of some sort.
At the top of my bucket list is ... to travel into space.
GLASGOW – A Barren County woman facing a murder charge stemming from a deadly crash has asked a judge to suppress a search warrant and blood sample taken within hours of the crash.
Lee Ann Tarry, 49, of Glasgow, is charged with murder and operating a motor vehicle under the influence. She is accused of being drunk behind the wheel of a 2013 Cadillac that struck the back of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt operated by Shanda N. Shockley, 24, of Glasgow, on the night of Jan. 26, 2018.
Shockley’s car was stopped at the traffic light in the southbound lane of Veterans Outer Loop, according to law enforcement.
A Barren County grand jury indicted Tarry three months later.
Represented by attorney Steve Romines, Tarry has pleaded not guilty and is currently free on a $500,000 surety bond.
The case is set for jury trial Sept. 17 in Barren Circuit Court, but Romines filed a set of motions last week alleging that the blood sample collected from Tarry to screen for intoxicants and the search warrant to authorize the blood draw were outside the bounds of the law.
Romines argued that the affidavit for the search warrant, submitted by Deputy Aaron Bennett of the Barren County Sheriff’s Office, was too vague to justify issuing the warrant.
The affidavit mentioned that Tarry’s behavior led officers to believe she was under the influence, and she was taken to T.J. Samson Community Hospital for a blood sample.
“Deputy Bennett does not describe any behavior ... that would establish probable cause for the blood draw at issue,” Romines said in his motion.
In the same motion, Romines moved to suppress the blood sample taken from Tarry at the hospital.
The toxicology report of the blood sample from Kentucky State Police indicates Tarry’s blood alcohol content was at 0.263 percent, more than three times the legal limit for drivers.
Romines argues that the blood sample was taken more than two hours after Tarry had stopped operating her vehicle.
According to court filings, the crash occurred about 10:25 p.m. Jan. 26, 2018, while the blood sample was taken at 12:35 a.m. Jan. 27, 2018.
State DUI laws establish that a person shall not operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more as measured by a breath or blood sample within two hours of the time the driver stopped operating the vehicle.
“A blood sample taken more than two hours after a subject last operated a motor vehicle is not reliable or probative evidence of the defendant’s (blood alcohol content) at the time of operation,” Romines said in his motion.
Barren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner has not filed a response to the motion.
A hearing has been set for July 24.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.