River pollution clean up costs could run up to $1.5 million, BP to help pay (PHOTOS) - Casper, WY Oil City News
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River pollution clean up costs could run up to $1.5 million, BP to help pay (PHOTOS)

(Trevor T. Trujillo, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — A City of Casper project to restore a roughly one mile portion of the North Platte River near the old BP/Amoco Refinery has revealed “a good deal of unmitigated pollution still remaining.”

“As you might be aware, we are into the river reconstruction right now,” City Manager Carter Napier told the city council on Tuesday, Nov. 12. “What we’re finding is quite a bit of contamination and debris fields that we didn’t expect to find.”

(Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

“We are invariably looking at increased costs.”

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Assistant City Manager Jolene Martinez explained that some pollution was expected on this portion of the river, particularly on the south side.

The plan for the project budgeted for costs associated with cleaning up that anticipated pollution, which led to higher costs per linear foot than in three earlier phases of the restoration further up river.

(Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

However, more pollution than anticipated has been revealed, which comes with additional costs beyond what was budgeted for.

The city council authorized a $2,455,959.40 contract with Shamrock Environmental Corporation to carry out the restoration efforts in August. They also authorized a $144,040.60 contingency account, bringing the total money allotted to the project to $2.6 million.

An additional $526,559 in remediation costs associated with cleaning up the pollution have already been identified with about 1/6 of the project complete.

(Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

“When all is said and done, a million, $1.5 million is not unrealistic,” Martinez told the council.

This portion of the river restoration effort stretches from the Poplar Street Bridge to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Bridge. Much of the unanticipated pollution has come from the north side of the river.

The pollution includes hydrocarbon releases as well as brick and other debris from what was likely an old coke plant. Martinez said the guess is that the plant was demolished and the debris left in place.

“I believe there are some heavy metals,” she added, pointing to further unexpected pollution.

The following factors add to the project’s cost:

  • hauling contaminated soil
  • disposing of contaminated soil
  • isolating polluted areas from the rest of the river
  • setting up “booms” to catch hydrocarbon releases downriver
  • bringing in additional top soil
  • Department of Enivronmental Quality compliance and testing
  • additional design and planning
  • added time (labor costs, etc.)

“We won’t be able to do it in one year,” Martinez said.

The project was originally estimated to be complete in May 2020, but the additional efforts have set back the expected completion date to June 2021.

Oil company BP previously put in a barrier wall near this portion of the river to prevent pollution from the old refinery getting into the river. Martinez says the project does not touch that wall, but that the Platte River Restoration Advisory Committee are in talks with BP in the hopes that they’ll help cover the added project costs.

BP has already agreed to contribute $100,000 to cover some of the pollution costs and may provide more.

“Is the pollution going to effect anyone further down the river?” Councilman Ken Bates asked. “Is that something they need to worry about?”

Martinez said that this is not a concern since even the original plan included methods to prevent pollution from spreading downstream.

“We fully expected that we would have hydrocarbon releases,” she explained.

A “boom” has been set up around Evansville’s water intake, for example, as a precaution should a hydrocarbon release somehow escape other booms set up near the project site.

Martinez added that the plan also includes coordination with the fire department who are able to capture hydrocarbon releases while deployed on boats on the river.

She adds that it is apparent when a hydrocarbon release is occurring due to a visible sheen on the water.

This section of the river is likely the worst in terms of pollution and Martinez says those involved don’t expect that later phases will run into such problems.

While pollution may be at the center of the discussion right now, Martinez says that other aspects of the project are exciting for Casper.

“It’s such a positively cool, terrific project,” she said on Wednesday.

Additional access points, such as boulder steps, are being added and will give people new places to get to the river. Building out new river bank makes other areas less steep and approachable.

Native vegetation will be planted and invasive species removed.

Martinez adds that there are also plans to eventually install a new boat ramp, though funding for that has not yet been identified.

While the City of Casper may see added costs on this section of the river, Mayor Charlie Powell said on Tuesday that the work is necessary.

“It’s got to be done anyway,” he said. “If it wasn’t us [who discovered the pollution] it would have been somebody else.”

Funding for the original project cost comes from a Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resources Trust grant which accounts for a little over $1.7 million of the total cost. Optional 1% sales tax funds set aside for river restoration account for the rest.

Martinez explained to the council that she was bringing the unanticipated pollution to their attention so that they are aware and can provide direction on how to deal with it.

BP has asked that the city track their remediation costs so that the company can consider repaying those. Until that point, the city will likely need to pay the added costs.

If you would like to contact members of the Casper City Council regarding this or any other issue, here is their contact information:

Mayor Charlie Powell (Ward II, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Vice Mayor Shawn Johnson (Ward II, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ken Bates (Ward II, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Cathey (Ward III, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Freel (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Bob Hopkins (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Mike Huber (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilwoman Khrystyn Lutz (Ward I, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ray Pacheco (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Council members can also be reached by mail at: 200 N. David Street, 82601

If you would like to contact members in your specific ward, but don’t know which ward you are in, a map is available at the City of Casper’s website.