EPA: More refinery contamination possible in Ardmore

Sheila Robinson

There could be other contaminated sites in the area of the Imperial Refinery Superfund Site, according to Buddy Parr, section manager for the superfund division of the Environmental Protection Agency.

These are in addition to a new contaminated site announced last week by the EPA and state environmental agencies.

Parr said there were a number of refineries in the Imperial Refinery area in the early 1920s, and those sites have not been tested. Parr made the announcement during the EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality meeting at the library Thursday night.

The original purpose of the meeting was to inform people in the Ardmore area about the changed plan for cleaning up the Imperial site, a 72-acre abandoned former crude oil refinery located on either side of Oklahoma State Highway 142 near the overpass.

When the site was first evaluated, EPA estimated in December 2007 it would cost $4.4 million and take a year to clean up. Katrina Higgins-Coltrain, EPA remedial project manager for the site, said once they began the process in February, the estimated volume of soil that needed to be removed increased from 29,521 cubic yards to 100,000-120,000 cubic yards. Cost estimates for the project jumped to $7 million, according to Coltrain.

Virginia Agers Perry said she grew up at 1208 8th Ave. NE and there was a smell in the air anytime there was wet weather.

“We always suspected the smell,” Perry said Thursday. “But we never had any problem with the water quality that I knew of. When we moved over on Freeman, I had to stop drinking the water. I couldn’t drink the water because my lips would swell. I had all kinds of little allergies and never knew what it was. Nobody else knew.”

Now, Perry said, her husband has cancer and a surprising amount of people have cancer in Ardmore and Carter County. “I’ve always been concerned about it,” Perry said.

Numerous pits, piles and water impoundments were contaminated with metals and refining wastes at the superfund site. These materials contain arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene.

Some of the waste found at the site cannot be removed, according to Coltrain. These areas are under the highway, close to a high-pressure gas line that runs across the property and under the railroad. Waste in areas close to neighboring properties on the north is under a “significant” slope that would be unsafe to excavate.

Coltrain said there would have been easements in these areas that would have prevented any excavation for property owners. These areas will be dug out as much as possible, up to about six feet deep and covered with six inches of compacted clay, and then backfill on top of that.

Although many of the areas have been cleaned up to residential use, the use of the property has been changed to industrial. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality will conduct operation and maintenance activities, doing regular monitoring and inspecting. The EPA will conduct routine reviews and inspections every five years.

The Daily Ardmoreite