Somewhere in the heart of Cleveland, a long-abandoned gas station now serves as a graveyard for unwanted video games.
But beyond the novelty of seeing old Pac-Man, Tekken and Mortal Combat arcade games lined up in rows like some post-apocalyptic tech graveyard, the deserted service station is a hotspot for environmental waste, crime and illegal dumping.
It’s far from being an isolated problem. The Scranton Road site is just one of nearly three dozen abandoned gas stations across Cleveland. Throughout the state of Ohio, approximately 500 of these gas stations lie vacant. Across the country, the National Association of Convenience Stores estimates that more than 50,000 gasoline stations have been abandoned since 1991.
According to NewsNet5 Cleveland, finding a way to safely clean up these hubs of contamination is more difficult than it looks. Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins has been attempting to get funding approved to clean up soil contamination at the Scranton Road service station for two years.
“It takes an active council representative, and an active development corporation,” said Cummins. “And an active block club that’s been involved with us, to keep pressure to move these things through.”
Unfortunately, removal of contaminated soil can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 per gas station — a sum of money many municipalities don’t have to spare. Consequently, the vast majority of these sites continue to leak pollution into the earth and foster crime across the country.
“Heavy metals, leakage from the tanks,” said Sandy Smith, a block club leader involved with the Scranton Road site. “The fact that these properties sit vacant, it creates an opportunity for illegal activity.”
To help eradicate this problem across Ohio, state legislators are moving forward with a proposed fund that would rehabilitate abandoned gas stations. According to the Port Clinton News Herald, the two-year, $20 million state budget would allow local officials to apply for funding to remove these eyesores.
The budget proposal successfully passed on June 30.
“These abandoned gas stations are eyesores in small communities and on Main streets across Ohio,” Todd Walker, spokesman for the Ohio Development Service Agency, said. “These gas stations are often in high traffic areas in the heart of a community that could be redeveloped.”