Crews drain a piece of Kaukauna history

Environmental Services Plus contractor opening tank that contained about 6,000 gallons of heating fuel in Kaukauna's old municipal complex building, July 19, 2018. (WLUK/Monique Lopez)

KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WLUK) -- A heating fuel tank that could be as much as 100 years old was recently found under the city of Kaukauna's former municipal complex building, and it still contained thousands of gallons of fuel.

The city had been renovating the building when the tank was found.

Out of mere curiosity, workers removed the lid, and deep down, there sat the thousands of gallons of untouched fuel.

“We weren't prepared for that at all,” said Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman. “It's going to cost the city about $20,000 to $30,000; that was unexpected and not in our budget."

Clean-up crews took a trip back in time when they went inside the tank to inspect it.

“Based on my, kind of, detective work and some old Sanborn maps, it was installed between 1925 and 1945, and I believe it was a fuel oil tank for a dairy operation that was here on this property,” Environmental Services Plus environmental contractor Jesse Rose said. “I think just over the years it kind of got forgotten."

What was initially estimated to be 3,000 gallons of fuel turned out to be double that. And it all had to be extracted safely.

"It's a confined space, you know, fuel oil and gasoline do explode, so we have to be very, very safe about it," Rose said.

The city purchased the building from Badger Northland back in 1973. At the time, officials say a contractor was hired to take care of the tank. But that never happened.

The building then became the city's old fire department, and the sleeping corridor was right next door to where the tank is.

"I had some history as a fireman myself down here but, ironically, nobody ever knew the tank was here," Rose said.

Along with the fuel, about 15 tons of stones and sand were removed. We were told that the soil extracted from the tank was more of a light sand color, so contamination is not expected, but the samples have been rushed to the lab, just in case.

It took three full days to drain the tank. Crews just finished-up Thursday morning. Next week, the tank will be filled with cement.

"It'll be sealed off and, like I said, the rest is going to be history!” Rose said.

Soil and water sample results are expected to be in on Monday. Once clear, workers will start filling up the tank with the cement.

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