Residents of the neighborhood at the corner of Porter Lane and Eva Street in midtown Ventura are in for a month-long sighting of detour signs during a concerted effort to rid the area groundwater of a gasoline additive that leaked from an underground tank some 26 years ago.

In 1988, an underground tank containing gasoline at the Five Points Car Wash began to leak. The gasoline contained the additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), which bonds easily to water. After reaching the water table, the MTBE drifted under Main Street and into the community in a narrow plume. To further complicate matters, another leak from an adjacent property, of the same chemical, drifted into the same plume.

MTBE was added to gasoline in the past in because it aids in combustion.

The area affected stretches from behind Five Points Car Wash to just past the sidewalk on the corner of Eva Street and Porter Lane to a depth of 16 feet.

Gina Teresa, environmental health specialist with the County of Ventura, says that the groundwater in the community is not a drinking water source and that the project has been going on for months, taking samples from area wells in order to determine if the concentration is lessening.

The current project will inject a two-part oxidant that will destroy the contaminants.

Teresa says that the project has been delayed several times before in the past.

“A lot of these cases are funded by the state, so if they don’t have the funding to do the cleanup they wait for reimbursement,” said Teresa.

Using the California State Water Resources Control Board’s GeoTracker map, details of areas in need of cleanup can be seen. In the city of Ventura, there are multiple sites that are scheduled for cleanup.

TRAK Environmental Group, a local private business, has been contracted to complete the project and, on a Monday afternoon, was on-site. Several white trucks and road crews were on hand to guide traffic, and temporary no-parking signs have been erected on Porter Lane and Eva Street.

The Ventura County Environmental Health Division estimates that the cleanup should be completed by December 2015, but the project on Eva Street and Porter Lane should conclude within 30 to 40 days. Area residents have been notified of the project, says Teresa.

“[MTBE] is not a volatile organic carbon, it’s more of a nuisance chemical,” says Teresa.