Five months in the making

(..or, the story that just wouldn't happen.)

Environmental Management Services technicians Waylon Setser and Jarrod Conger, both of Davenport, remove a hose after Conger cleaned out the inside of the diesel storage tank at the old Linn-Mar schools bus lot in Marion on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009. A special wash and rinse with emulsifying soap is used to break down the hydrocarbons in the fuel and make the tank safe for use as scrap metal.

The budget line for the story was simply, "LUST: Did leaking underground storage tank program succeed?" That was in July. The DNR told us about a tank (not a leaky one, however, but still a gas tank) that was set to come out at the Linn-Mar bus yard -- we just had to wait for it to actually happen. I'd hoped to photograph the new tanks going into the ground, at the new site, but couldn't get access. So the story was pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back.. I made weekly calls to my contacts, who referred me to other contacts, and I was passed down the line until, in early November, I heard, "after Thanksgiving we'll know something. I'll call you."

A diesel storage tank is removed from the ground at the old Linn-Mar schools bus lot in Marion on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009. The old diesel and gasoline tanks were removed after new tanks were installed at the new bus lot. After the tanks are removed, the ground is tested for contaminants, and the tanks are drained of any remaining liquids and cleaned before being used for scrap metal.

"I'll believe it when I see it," said one editor, who had also (jokingly, I think..) suggested that we just go dig it up ourselves, to speed up the process. But, sure enough, the tanks came out, I had a great on-site contact and as much access as I could possibly have hoped for. Wearing a hard hat into the job site without being asked, being genuinely interested in what they're doing and why, and heeding their warnings of where to stand to avoid potential explosions and/or passing out from the fumes, all go a long way on a shoot like this. When one of the technicians suited up and got INSIDE the tank to clean it out, I might have hopped just a little bit out of sheer joy (or maybe it was to keep myself warm on the frigid day).

Environmental Management Services technician Jarrod Conger of Davenport cleans out the inside of an old diesel storage tank after it was removed from the ground at the old Linn-Mar schools bus lot in Marion on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009.

...And then the story comes out, and I think, "Now, why was this so hard?"


  1. Anonymous8:11 PM CST

    Imagine if everything had worked out right away -- taking these photos in the bitter cold wouldn't have been nearly as exciting.

    In the third photo, I really like how the worker stands out against the darkness of the tank. The framing is also very nice. Well done.

  2. Yeah, I hate it when an assignment that should be somewhat easy to cover gets double wrapped in Red Tape. Nice images, glad you followed through with it.