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Buried WWII-era fuel tanks to be removed in Beaver County | TribLIVE.com
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Buried WWII-era fuel tanks to be removed in Beaver County

Tony LaRussa
PTRTANKS082312
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
An underground hi-octane aircraft fuel tank, measuring 30 ft. deep by 100 ft. across, is being removed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers at the former Air Force Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant Facility along Mowry Road in Monaca on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. (Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review)

In 1941, the fear that Nazi war planes would bomb strategic sites in the United States was so great the government started building huge underground aviation fuel tanks on a hilltop in Beaver County and disguised the site to look like a farm.

By year’s end, a nearly $10 million project to remove those tanks along Raccoon Creek Road in Potter is to be completed, said Clem Gaines, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.

On Wednesday, representative from the corps and local officials invited residents, community leaders and the media to tour “the tank farm.”

Potter Supervisor Rebecca Matsco said the tour was an opportunity to show the progress that’s been made at the site, obtained by the municipality through eminent domain proceedings.

“We thought our residents would want to know what is going on out here and see what it looks like,” she said.

A survey of residents resulted in an overwhelming desire for the 305-acre site along Raccoon Creek to be turned into something “quiet and green,” Matsco said.

The most frequent suggestion was to use the area for recreation with features such as a multiuse trail, a picnic area and a canoe launch, Matsco said.

John Walsh, 75, said he and his friends used to play there when they were kids and “always knew” there were fuel tanks underground.

For the past two years, a team of engineers, excavators and environmentalists have been working to remove five of the six underground steel tanks, Gaines said.

One of the tanks was used by a now-defunct mineral company, and the corps can’t make a decision on removing it, Gaines said.

Matsco said the township is trying to obtain funding to proceed with removal of the last tank.

The steel scrap from the site is worth about $1 million and will be sold by the contractor to offset the project cost, Gaines said.

About eight miles of underground pipe leading from the site to the Ohio River and to railroad tracks and roads have been cleaned and will remain intact, said Brent Graybill, the corps’ manager for the project.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or [email protected].

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