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17 December 2015
The oil or gas leaks that grab headlines tend to be big events such as the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, but smaller-scale spills can be a problem, too, new research finds. Even a few drops dribbled from the nozzle of a gas station fuel pump can penetrate concrete and contaminate soil and groundwater below, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
In the past, regulators and researchers assumed that most spilled fuel would evaporate into the atmosphere, said Markus Hilpert, a hydrologist at Johns Hopkins University. The possibility that small fuel droplets might seep through the concrete pad under a gas station to the soil and water below was largely ignored, he said.