EPA moves to re­move lead from Bris­tow oil re­fin­ery

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - METRO | STATE - BY JUSTIN WINGERTER Staff Writer jwingerter@ok­la­homan.com

Lead con­tam­i­na­tion at a for­mer Creek County oil re­fin­ery is so ex­ten­sive the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency says it must re­move much of it soon to pro­tect its work­ers.

The Wilcox Oil Co. in Bris­tow, about 35 miles south­west of Tulsa, con­tam­i­nated as many as 150 acres with high lev­els of lead in the half-cen­tury be­tween 1915 and 1965, ac­cord­ing to EPA records. Since then, the lead has seeped into ad­ja­cent wa­ter­ways.

The EPA added the site to its na­tional pri­or­i­ties list for Su­per­fund sites in late 2013. Last week, it an­nounced its de­sire to be­gin re­mov­ing lead at the site sooner than sched­uled.

“The cur­rent ac­tion is be­ing taken to both pro­tect worker safety and to pre­vent fur­ther mi­gra­tion of lead into the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Cyn­thia Fanning, a re­gional EPA spokes­woman.

The EPA will host a public meet­ing Tues­day night at Bris­tow’s town li­brary to in­form res­i­dents of the work and its pro­posed cleanup strat­egy. The public will have 30 days to com­ment be­fore a fi­nal de­ci­sion is made. Fund­ing for the work has not yet been re­ceived.

The EPA doesn't know the ex­tent of lead con­tam­i­na­tion at the Su­per­fund site or whether the prop­erty can ever be re­pur­posed. Su­per­fund cleanup of­ten spans decades.

Once lead is ex­ca­vated from the Wilcox site, it will be trans­ported to a yet un­de­ter­mined waste fa­cil­ity ca­pa­ble of han­dling such con­tam­i­nants. Fanning said the fa­cil­ity is likely to be lo­cated in the Tulsa area.

“(The) pro­posed plan ef­fi­ciently uti­lizes

re­sources and ad­dresses the high­est risks first for Creek County, Ok­la­homa,” said re­gional EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor Anne Id­sal in a news re­lease last week.

In ad­di­tion to lead, en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age was caused by oil at the site. Dur­ing the first half of the 20th cen­tury, crude oil was of­ten stored in bot­tom­less tanks, al­low­ing it to seep di­rectly into the ground. The EPA says it has re­moved 1,349 tons of oil waste from the area to date.

Pre-emp­tive cleanup ac­tions, like the one be­ing pro­posed at the Wilcox site, were rec­om­mended by the Su­per­fund Task Force, a group con­vened by then-EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt last May and tasked with de­ter­min­ing how to ex­pe­dite Su­per­fund work.

The head of the Su­per­fund Task Force was Al­bert Kelly, a na­tive of Bris­tow whose fam­ily owns prop­erty ad­ja­cent to the Wilcox Oil Co. site. Kelly re­signed his Su­per­fund post in May amid scru­tiny of his bank­ing ca­reer.

Bris­tow is home to about 4,200 peo­ple and four con­tam­i­nated sites, remnants of its oil and gas past. Kelly’s grand­fa­ther dis­cov­ered oil on his farm around 1920, al­low­ing him to in­vest in a bank that would be­come Spirit Bank, the fam­ily busi­ness, ac­cord­ing to press re­ports.

Af­ter oil was dis­cov­ered by Kelly’s grand­fa­ther nearly a cen­tury ago, a well was drilled by a lo­cal com­pany in Bris­tow. That com­pany was Wilcox Oil.

[PHOTO PRO­VIDED]

The Wilcox Oil Com­pany Su­per­fund site in Bris­tow is seen in this un­dated photo from the Ok­la­homa Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity’s ar­chives.

A U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey em­ployee scans re­sults from a well at the Wilcox Oil Co. Su­per­fund site in Bris­tow.

[PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED]

Con­tam­i­na­tion is seen in a wa­ter­way near the Wilcox Oil Co. Su­per­fund site in Bris­tow in this 1999 photo.

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