Corn's awarded Super Fund grant for cleanup

Corn’s Tire and Auto, owned by Josephine Corn, has received a $600,000 Super Fund grant from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for a routine clean up that is decades overdue.

A Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF) was designated by the ADEQ since the mid 90s to remediate water and soil in places where there are historic risks of contamination to the resources. Reforms in 1997 to the WQARF allowed for support of a Voluntary Remediation Program which is how the Corn’s former gas station is now categorized. The funds allow for research and testing the area to gage the extent of contamination, if any, within the area of the Corn property, including soil remediation.

Page citizens have wondered about the project and if they have to worry. So, Corn and her grandson, Alan Sneed, have reached out to the public to assure there is only a long awaited, routine clean up happening on the Corn property.

History of the underground tank removal goes back to 1986 when Corn’s gas station had an accidental explosion. Two vapors combined and met with a spark, above ground. It was assumed there was a spill when the explosion occurred. So, in 1991 tank removal was done. Only residual leakage was detected under the gas pumps where gas residue is to be expected.

Under the WQARF, the sewer lines, water and soil were tested for petroleum contamination near the property. However, past street routes in the 70s were different from the route on Aero now and contamination was not detected in the water and soil surrounding the property.

The soil five feet deep and 180 square feet was remediated on the Corn property in a routine manner via contractor Brown and Caldwell.

Brown and Caldwell in a contract with the ADEQ has begun cleanup efforts and are near complete. They started remediation on Nov. 13, and through the holiday they were able to complete the job within 13 days. Now inspection and release papers are the next step.

Corn credits her case worker Richard Brunton, Project Manager for the Corrective Action Section of the ADEQ. Corn had tried several times over the last 26 years to get help from the ADEQ. It wasn’t until Corn went to Phoenix in person and met with Brunton that she received the help she was looking for.

“We had to threaten them with a lawsuit to get [results]. Brunton was the fourth case worker and he got it done,” said Sneed.

Corn has been anxious to finish the cleanup.

“I just got a new case worker who took the time to come to Page and talk to me and to look at the paperwork. We are happy with both [Brown and Caldwell and Ryan Brunton] and want to say how much we appreciate them getting it done,” said Corn. “I’m real happy about everything that is happening. I just want to get out of the responsibility of it. Right now, my property is supposed to be an asset, right? Well, I can’t use it as an asset, I can’t borrow against it. It’s a dead piece of property. I still gotta pay the taxes at $5,000 a year.”

Because of the hold on the property and still paying taxes, Corn had to rely on public assistance and SSI to survive. Corn qualified for the WQARF under a hardship fund.

Sneed jokes about her now taking a cruise because now she can sell the property and finally retire. However, they express a regret they are closing because they kept their business customers oriented. Corn’s Tire and Auto still did trading post credit in 2010. Sneed recalls when his grandfather began in 1976.

“We had seven employees and 80 percent of our business was from the reservation. We knew nine or 10 Code Talkers and we took credit or lease with collateral like jewelry; half down then pay the rest off. Trading post style and that was the way it was. Now I can’t do it by myself,” Sneed said.

“Alan kept it up and made sure the people were safe,” Corn said.

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