NPR Story
1:44 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Former Creek County Refinery Site Added to Superfund Priority List

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 6:01 pm

A map from the EPA shows the location of the 125-acre Wilcox Oil Company Superfund site near Bristow, Okla.

A map from the EPA shows the location of the 125-acre Wilcox Oil Company Superfund site near Bristow, Okla.

A site near Bristow, abandoned decades ago by a pair of oil refiners, has been added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of most hazardous national cleanup priorities.

The EPA on Dec. 12 added the Wilcox Oil Company site to the Superfund National Priorities List, a federal program that investigates and directs cleanup efforts at the country’s “most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites.”

The Lorraine and Wilcox refineries operated there over various times from 1915 until 1965, federal records show. The 125-acre site was abandoned decades ago, but equipment remnants, cooling ponds, and decaying oil storage tanks remain.

The site’s contaminants include lead and other metals, and toxic atmospheric pollutants known as PAHs, records show. Officials say the soil is contaminated, and water pollution has been documented, records show. Six homes and a church are located near the site, and half the residents get their drinking water from wells.

From the EPA’s site summary:

Intermittent streams drain the source areas and flow to Sand Creek. A release of copper, lead and PAHs has been documented to the wetlands of Sand Creek. Sand Creek flows to Little Deep Fork Creek from which fish are caught for human consumption.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality recommended the site be added to the Superfund priorities list, which the federal agency in May 2013 said it was considering doing.

The cleanup process has just started. First, a remedial investigation has to be done to determine exactly which chemicals are at the site and in what amounts, which is expected to take two years. A feasibility study comes next, in which the best options for clean up are narrowed down and costs determined, the Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle reports.

“At this time, DEQ does not know what the best clean up options are for the Wilcox site or what the cost estimate is,” DEQ spokeswoman Erin Hatfield tells the paper.

There’s no word yet on when the remedial investigation will begin.

It’s been more than a decade since a polluted site in Oklahoma has been declared a Superfund site. The most recent addition was the Hudson Refining site near Cushing, which was added in July 1999. Including Wilcox Oil, Oklahoma has seven Superfund site on the National Priorities list, which includes locations polluted by oil refining, mining and manufacturing.

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