A Chevron safety manager briefed reporters before taking them on a tour of the cleanup area at Willard Bay State Park on Wednesday. The Chevron pipeline next to I-15 split open in mid-March, allowing more than 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel to spill into a wetland area next to the park’s North Marina.
Chevron has been working to clean up the spill since it happened, bringing in an emergency response team from Houston. The company controls access to the site. It issued its own picture ID to media as they arrived and limited where they could go, even keeping TV camera operators from carrying their gear. Chevron’s Patrick Green is the incident commander.
"We’ve had people trip and that’s the last thing you need, tripping and hitting you," Green told reporters. "So that’s why we’re restricting cameras to still cameras, small cameras only. It’s for your safety."
After suiting up in coveralls, hard hats, gloves, safety glasses and rubber boots, reporters were taken on a path near the road where the initial spill occurred. Here, the soil and the plants growing in it have been scooped up and hauled away. Green then took the group along a small stream leading to the beach.
"They went through and they scoured the bottom, so you can see where the bottom has been cleaned up to make sure that there wasn’t anything," he explained as he walked through the willows. "We picked up heavy wooden debris. Some of the plant, the vegetation, that was saturated, it’s been cleaned up."
A plastic material called "pom-poms,” which absorbs diesel fuel but not water, has been placed along the stream to absorb any left behind.
A few minutes later, a worker brought in from Louisiana scrubbed everyone’s boots with Simple Green at a decontamination station.
While she waited for that treatment, Joyel Dhieux with the U-S Environmental Protection Agency says she’s satisfied with the way the work is going so far.
"I think they’re doing a fine job," Dhieux said. "We’ve seen a pretty dramatic improvement in the area over the last two weeks. There’s still a little bit of work left to be done, but I think it’s going well.”
Standing on the beach near the booms put out to contain any remnants of the spill, Walt Baker with the Utah Division of Water Quality says he’s also satisfied with the cleanup so far. The Division is issuing a notice of violation for the incident, and eventually, that could result in a fine.
"The whole purpose of a notice of violation is just to allege what we think happened and give Chevron the opportunity of responding to our, what we allege occurred," Baker told KUER. "And so they’ll have a period of time to do that, tell us what happened, what they’re doing to prevent it from happening again. And we’ll consider that before we consider anything relative to fines and penalties."
Baker says some samples of water from the reservoir away from the beach have shown minute traces of hydrocarbons, and the division will continue testing in the lake and in some new test wells to make sure more doesn’t turn up.
The pipeline has been repaired and is now back in operation. Chevron’s target date for finishing the work and re-opening the park to the public is June 1st – the weekend after Memorial Day. The South Marina at Willard Bay is open now and operating normally.