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The Versailles Republican

August 14, 2014 • Headlines

A special event will kick off the new Character Counts in Our Community project next week at Milan Community Schools.
Counselors Gayle Healy and Brenda Schwering hang colored bows around town, each with a character trait identified on the ribbon.

One of South Ripley’s Five-Star Technology representatives helps students set up their new Chromebooks.
Versailles Fire Department and IDEM responded to a leak from a pipe of the underground tank at the Marathon gas station.
The road was closed briefly for clean-up.

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Fuel leak from pipe discovered
Clean up, testing continues

Mary Mattingly

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is investigating a fuel leak discovered in a storm drain from a Versailles gas station.

Midwest Environmental Services


Left, Midwest Environmental Services crew work to vacuum the spill Tuesday.

On Sunday evening, at 5:55 p.m., Versailles Fire Department was dispatched to US 50 West and John Paul Street for a strong smell of fuel in the area. When firefighters arrived they found an undetermined amount of fuel in the ditch and storm drains. The firefighters constructed retaining basins and deployed hazmat socks or booms to catch the fuel from traveling elsewhere. This was done at four different locations, stretching from US 50 to the north with the last one just north of Hopewell Street in downtown Versailles, according to Versailles Fire Chief Ben Sieverding.

The source of the spill was traced to the Marathon station at the intersection of US 50 and US 421. Owners Qurben Singh and his son, Tony, who manage the station, said they shut off the pumps and would reopen the gas business Thursday. The Marathon convenience store remained open.

Versailles Indiana Marathon
Pictured right, the fuel leak was traced to the Marathon station in Versailles.

The underground tanks hold 15,000 gallons, and fuel readings are done daily, Tony Singh said. He did not smell gas, other than what they normally do at the station, although a few people reported a strong odor less than a half mile away near the Friendship State Bank. IDEM also responded Sunday. One lane of US 50 was closed on Monday for a short period to assist in clean up operations. It was determined the leaking source was from an underground pipe, which was replaced Wednesday. The pipe flows from the underground tank. Inspectors then checked to ensure it was working properly.

Local residents had concerns about the water safety. Ripley County EMA director Patrick Rose was on the scene and said, “There have been no reports at this time of compromise to a water source.”

Barry Sneed, IDEM’s public information officer, told Ripley Publishing they estimated about 200 to 300 gallons of fuel have been released, which he said was “considerable.”

“Our focus is to protect human health and stop the leak,” he said. The IDEM website regarding underground storage tanks stated a spill of only three gallons of gasoline can spoil drinking water for a small town. However, that depends on their drinking water source

“The homes or businesses in Versailles are on city water so their water would be fine,” Sneed said. Hoosier Hills Regional Water became Versailles water source last month. The water is pumped from Brookville. IDEM will continue to check to see if any nearby homes on well water may be compromised. “There is no evidence of contamination in the lake,” Sneed added. “We will keep an eye on it for several weeks.”

Sneed reported their initial task was to block the outlets, and set up the booms to keep fuel from traveling downstream. Contractors for tank and pipe equipment and environmental clean up crews arrived to vacuum the surface spill and investigate equipment for malfunctions. Contaminated soil, possibly along the banks, will be remediated and removed to a landfill. Gasoline was diluted, and therefore not as flammable. If it travels to a water bed, it could impact fish, according to Sneed.

According to Sneed, IDEM deals with fuel spills from vehicles almost monthly, but probably just once or twice a year for an underground tank leak from a filling station. Usually, it would be when a semi fills up and the automatic shut off valve does not operate, and there is overflow. Also, old tanks may not be registered with IDEM, and this is discovered when a new owner comes in to remove it or take over the station. These tanks were registered, Sneed said. The owners said they were not concerned so much about the days’ business lost, but safety. They also own the Shell gas station about two blocks away, which has been busier as a result of the station closing.

Sneed commented there are tight standards for tanks and liners to prevent these types of incidents. Tanks are double walled, for example. He acknowledged such a leak can be costly for an owner so “there is motivation to not have a leak.” There is a possibility of a fine but it depends on a number of factors, Sneed said, such as if it was known there was defective equipment.

The investigation will continue, and he said Versailles residents can expect to see IDEM activity for weeks to come.

Sneed added, “We had great cooperation from fire and EMA. They were very helpful.” Besides Versailles Fire Department, assistance came from Osgood VFD, Madison Township Hazmat, with the Delaware VFD on standby for traffic control.

60 years later...
Korean War veterans still meet

Mary Mattingly

For 60 years, a small group of Ripley County Korean War veterans have met without fail. They pencil in the date on their calendar, and nothing comes between it: not weddings, work or vacations, and of late, even funerals.

Korean War veterans


Left, Billy Cooper, formerly of Versailles, Al Eckstein, formerly of New Marion and sitting, Harold Stork, formerly of Osgood, are three of the 10 Korean War veterans from the county that gather every year for a reunion. The others have passed away or are ill.

The reunion started in July 1954 after six of them were discharged, one year after the war ended. They had entered basic training in Kentucky in 1952, a few of them knowing each other from high school. In all, there were 10 Ripley County Korean War veterans from Cross Plains, Osgood, Batesville, Milan, New Marion and Versailles, who became part of this loyal annual reunion group.

On this past Sunday, Aug. 10, the local reunion numbers were down to just three, but “ancestors” as they call them, the widows and children of the Ripley County Korean War veterans also gathered at the Osgood Grub Co., the place they’ve met for the past three years.

“I’ve always come. I just do. I wouldn’t miss it,” said Martha Jarvis, widow of Dale “Pug” Jarvis. She started coming with her husband but he passed away in 1988.He was one of the original six from the county. “We’re like a family,” piped in Joyce Kraus, daughter of the late Joe Hountz. Joe and Pug were two of the Ripley Countians who had been injured in war. The unique bond the war created lasted a lifetime for these men. As Joyce Kraus reflected, “It’s like an inner spirit or something with one another. I think it’s because they all survived the same thing.” They were also the same age when they were drafted.

The men, now 83, don’t talk much about their fighting days because most would prefer to forget. They prefer to tease each other over a beer or burger, or reminisce about past reunions, the decades of gatherings at the Versailles State Park and Versailles American Legion Park with some 50 or more descendants.

Several of the 10 had big families, 7 or 8 kids, and so it became a large reunion and was usually held the third weekend in July. It was often a pitch-in, with Don and Betty Pettit bringing the meat and sending the invitations. (Don is currently at a Veteran’s Hospital). Harold Stork, who lives in Burlington, Kentucky, follows up with phone calls as a reminder these days. They may not need it though.

Karol Mathes, daughter of Pug Jarvis, remembers how much fun it was, how they never missed and would roll in with a trailer from vacation to the park if need be. “We always looked forward to it.” She still does. Her dad was a medic and suffered a gunshot wound, but he rarely talked about it. “I remember as a kid seeing his scar, and he said ‘that’s where I was shot,’ and that was all he said. I didn’t ask questions. I could tell it bothered him.” He did talk freely about the ’53 Chevy he bought with his poker winnings earned while in the army, she and her mother noted. Pug also made money by ironing…folding soldier’s uniform pants by placing them under the mattress for a straight crease.

Stork, formerly of Osgood, was in the army and saw limited action. Nonetheless, he was more than glad when his two years were up. He recalled the ship he traveled on December in 1952 to Seattle and “hearing the rivets creak when it hit a wave. I swore I’d never get back on that ship! But, when it was time to go home, I didn’t care how.”

Al Eckstein, who was from New Marion, drives three hours with his wife from Fairbanks, Indiana, to see his buddies. He worked in aerial photo interpretations for the army back then. “It was a good job because they didn’t’ shoot at me!” Although safe for the most part, he too was anxious to return home. He recalled his first impression upon returning to the states and arriving in California. “The prettiest sight in the world was the beautiful colors. All the cars of blue, green and red. All I had seen was army green! I still see that in my mind.” And, he liked the jingle of coins his pocket, instead of the paper currency from overseas. He also recalled enjoying hearing children speak English instead of a foreign language.

Billy Cooper, formerly of Versailles, said he took a train back to Indiana. He asked the conductor how fast it could go. “He said, ‘120 mph.’ And, I asked will it run faster?” He couldn’t wait to get home and see his 11-month-old daughter for the first time. “She was scared of me and it took about a week before she adjusted. But, then she adopted me.” He lives in Indianapolis now, and his daughter just celebrated her 61st birthday.

The Korean War has been called The Forgotten War. Stork, who was a communications chief in the army, said that was evident when he returned home. “Nobody was running out into the streets, but then no one was throwing rocks either,” he said, recalling the reaction for soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. He came home to Osgood “much more appreciative of what I have.”

A highlight for these men was a tribute in 2001 at the Tyson Gym, coordinated by local veteran John Ward, where each was presented with a Korean medal as a thank you for their sacrifice from the USA 50 years later. It’s a visible memento of those years, but the best ones are the memories they have created in the 60 years of reunions. Life-long friendship it seems is one of the few benefits of war.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The original Ripley County Korean War veteran group consisted of Erving Wilson of Batesville, Kenneth Buckhorst of Milan, Dale “Pug” Jarvis of Cross Plains, Clarence “Rusty” Matthews of Cross Plains, Joe Hountz of Milan and Francis Palmer. Those veterans have since passed away. Donald Pettit of Milan is currently in a Veteran’s hospital in Marion, but remaining are Harold Stork of Cincinnati, formerly of Osgood, Billy Cooper formerly of Versailles, and Alvin E. Eckstein, formerly of New Marion, of Fairbanks, Indiana.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Honoring veterans: Film in Osgood honors WW II veterans: "Honor Flight" at Damm Theatre Aug. 27
• Digital vs. books: Schools embrace latest technology
• Southeastern Career Center hosts open house, career fair (page 3)

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