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Another library dig hits a surprise

The Medford construction project bumps into three old, underground gas tanks

First they struck gold. Now they've struck oil.

Jackson County Library System projects keep running into underground surprises.

Excavation for the Central Library project at Ninth Street and Central Avenue in Medford unearthed three gasoline tanks Wednesday. The tanks were pulled out of the ground Thursday.

This comes less than a month after construction workers came upon Depression-era gold mine tunnels beneath the new Jacksonville library site. (The tunnels were determined to be insignificant historically and will be filled in so the project can continue, officials say.)

The Medford and Jacksonville libraries are two of 15 being rebuilt or remodeled countywide thanks to a &

36;38.9 million bond measure passed in May 2000.

Dave Kanner, deputy county administrator and project manager for the library buildings, said underground gas tanks are not unusual in Medford and he does not expect them to hold up the Central Library project.

It'll cost us a little bit of money to get rid of them, said Kanner. Maybe &

36;15,000, maybe less than that.

Tests will be conducted in the surrounding soil to determine if it is contaminated, Kanner said. If so, properly disposing of the soil would further drive up the cost.

A gas station was at that location from about 1936 to 1951, according to Bill Miller, historian with the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

It opened in the late '30s, probably 1936, Miller said. A guy named Rudy Singler was the manager and apparently at that time it was a Gilmore gas station.

Rudy Singler died in 1943. Herbert Crain took it over after Singler died. At that point, it becomes a Standard Oil gas station. In 1950, it becomes a Mobile gas station.

According to society records, Edy's Book and Bible House opened in that location in 1951, and that was the last anyone saw of the gas station.

Until now.

We were taking it down to grade and we found a pipe sticking up underground, said Gene Tivnan, general supervisor for S.D. Deacon contractors.

Upon further digging, crews realized they had discovered a 1,000-gallon tank and two 750-gallon tanks, he said, adding that they were glad to learn the tanks were filled with water and not fuel.

Valley Environmental Services in Central Point had conducted a surface study of the soil before excavation and found low levels of petroleum.

A phase-one environmental assessment is just a surface exploration, said Kanner. Their report actually recommended that we do a phase-two.

But the county decided against spending the money, Kanner said. If we had known in advance that tanks were there, we'd still have to remove them.

The next step is to have the soil tested. The Department of Environmental Quality and the fire marshal also will inspect the site, said Tivnan.

In the best-case scenario, the county would simply remove the tanks to take care of the problem, he said. The worst-case scenario is that contaminated soil also would have to be removed and properly disposed.

John French, facility manager for Jackson County, said work crews have plenty to do and the tanks are not holding up construction at this point.

They can go work on another part of the site, said French. Right now, there is not a delay.

He said the library building project will fund the cleanup.

It's part of the contingency, he said.

Library Director Ronnie Lee Budge said that until testing is done, the impact of Wednesday's discovery on the project is unknown.

Meanwhile, the Applegate Library project is experiencing a delay. Workers learned this week that the cement used for the foundation was not the right consistency. It will have to be removed and the foundation redone, Budge said.

They have been told that they need to remove the concrete slab, she said. It cannot be repaired.

Budge doesn't view the defective foundation, fuel tanks or mining tunnels as a string of bad luck, however.

It's just a lot of building projects going on at one time, she said.

But it is helping her to hone her sense of humor.

The joke around here is, we can use the concrete from Applegate to fill the tunnels of Jacksonville, she said.

Kanner agrees that all building projects have unforeseen issues.

I think anyone who's remodeled their kitchen understands this frustration, he said.

We were hoping (the tanks) weren't there, but it's not as bad as finding gold mines.


A construction worker on Thursday moves three gasoline tanks found at the site of the new Central Library at Ninth Street and Central Avenue in Medford. Unless the surrounding soil is contaminated, the discovery is not expected to delay the project. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli