Iowa Retailers Begin Massive Cleanup

Following worst Midwest flooding since 1993, woes range from storage tanks to car washes

Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa. -- Petroleum marketers in central and eastern Iowa were continuing to pick up the pieces at their retail and even wholesale operations Wednesday following the worst Midwest flooding to occur in the region in 15 years.

Flooding that began in the state last week caused at least $1.5 billion in damage as it crept south toward the Mississippi River, affecting convenience retailers in Missouri and Illinois. In Iowa, about 25,000 people in Cedar Rapids were forced from their homes, 19 buildings at the University of Iowa were flooded, and water treatment plants in several [image-nocss] cities were knocked out—affecting local drinking-water supplies and even crippling several car-wash operations.

Convenience retailers and marketers directly affected by the flooding disaster were busy both restoring order to their own retail establishments and helping community relief efforts—particularly effort to sandbag broken levies.

At West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go, 14 c-stores were in some way impacted by the flooding, while one store, located in Mason City near the Minnesota border, had faced extensive damage, Sara Wille, a spokesperson for Kum & Go told CSP Daily News.

Wille said Kum & Go, which has 430 stores in 12 states, had donated 1,000 cases of water to aid relief efforts as many communities faced water issues and had to shut off systems. "The water we donated was gone in two hours," said Wille.Kim Kyle, district leader for LaCrosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip's central Iowa region, told CSP Daily News that the chain had already been dealing with the effects of the tornado that ripped through Iowa the week before. The tornado totally destroyed one Kwik Trip store in Parkersburg, Iowa. She said a tanker truck delivering fuel at the time the tornado touched down was spun 150 feet away from where he had been parked after facing up to 205-mph winds.Then the flooding started, and Kyle said that of the 16 stores in her region, one Kwik Trip in New Hartford, Iowa, and another in Waverly were damaged form the water but could not provide a damage estimate. She said that three stores in Waterloo that were once in "imminent danger" of flooding were able to hold off the storm waters.A spokesperson for LaCrosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc. confirmed that at least a couple of its stores in the Iowa area had incurred some degree of damage.

Dawn Carlson, president and chief executive of the Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores of Iowa (PMCSI), said this flooding disaster has proven to be far worse than what the region experienced in 1993. Carlson told CSP Daily News that in addition to any physical damage that retailers had incurred, there were also reports of floating above-ground storage tanks, and even underground tanks that had been breached.

"There is a lot of animal waste and diesel fuel floating around right now in the affected areas," said Carlson. "We are having a hard time getting in contact with some members, as they are having communications problems—plus a number are involved in relief efforts. We are having a hard time putting a number on how many have suffered damage and at what cost." PMCSI represents about 1,000 companies and 1,500 retail sites.

Carlson said that a number of members have donated fuel and provisions, such as bottled water, to aid volunteers who are helping to sandbag, and the association was working through local Red Cross to facilitate the effort.

At The Corner Store, a c-store in Center Point, Iowa, located just north of Cedar Rapids,
owner Donna Sholes told CSP Daily News that she was spared the worst because her business doesn't sit on a flood plain. The store did have to close its car wash because proper water filtration and recycling requirements were not available due to water treatment facilities that have been under duress.

Sholes said her business has slowed considerably because regular customers are either too busy scrambling to cleanup their homes to visit their local c-store or because there's limited access to the store because one side of the Cedar River is washed away. "There are a ton of people who are not working, so our customer base has shrunk," she said.

Sholes has not yet been able to estimate what her losses are in fuel or merchandising sales. She also confirmed that both above-ground and underground storage tanks have been breached in several areas, adding that even some USTs have been exposed and perhaps are leaking.Kyle said that Kwik Trip took preventative measure on its tank units and "capped all our tanks ahead of time. We also made sure all storage tanks were full so no water could seep inside.PMCSI sent its members a bulletin that confirmed that the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was concerned that the buoyancy of USTs could offset the restraint of backfill and pavement, causing them to move or shift, and that connections in a UST system could be loosened or broken. Fuel may be contaminated if a tank were to be submerged. If there is a perforation in the tank or loose fitting at the top of the tank, water can force the product out of the tank.

If any marketer or retailer had more than 1 inch of water in a diesel or gasoline tank (non-ethanol blend), they were required to contact a hazardous-waste-management company to have it removed. More than an inch of water at a tank's bottom can contaminate fuel systems in vehicles, said the Iowa DNR.

Before any storage tanks are permitted to go back online, marketers were told to conduct tightness tests on lines and tanks. If an Iowa retailer's UST system was submerged, they were advised by DNR to contact a licensed installer to make sure the system was undamaged. A list of Iowa licensed installers is available on DNR's website: