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Woods Cross oil cleanup continues; water samples are clear

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 5:16 p.m. MDT

Samantha Errett washes oil and dirt at the Animal Care Center in Woods Cross on Friday, Aug. 31, 2012. On Thursday evening, a fuel oil tank sprayed 212 barrels of oil. Nobody was harmed, but the fuel oil coated buildings, cars, and roads immediately southeast of the tank, which is located at the eastern side of the refinery near the railroad tracks.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

WOODS CROSS — HollyFrontier Refinery is continuing to sift through any residual fallout of a 212-gallon oil spray that impacted area businesses, homes and residents late last week.

Mike Astin, environmental manager with the company, said an estimated 264 people have either directly contacted the refinery or been approached by cleanup crews to report problems or impacts.

A fracture in a storage tank just east of the refinery sprayed oil about a mile to the southeast and 40 feet wide at 6:45 p.m. Aug. 29.

Although the tank was immediately shut down, Astin said the spray coated lawns, cars, sidewalks and anything else in its path with the material, which is classified as non-hazardous under federal environmental rules.

Many vehicle owners have taken advantage of car-detailing coupons provided by the company to get the sticky material removed; one residential roof has been scrubbed and driveways have been power-washed.

"We've been walking through neighborhoods, putting fliers up, we think the word has got out pretty good," Astin said. "We want to make sure everybody has had things taken care of to their satisfaction."

Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been in touch with the refinery, and a preliminary investigation will be finalized within the next several weeks, Astin said.

Initial test results for any petroleum-based compounds in water samples taken from Davis County's Mill Creek show no detectable amounts of oil as a result of the incident, said Walt Baker, director of the state Division of Water Quality. Additional testing will be done as a precaution, he said.

“We aren’t seeing anything harmful to human health or aquatic life based on the data we have so far,” said Walt Baker, director of Water Quality. “However, we are awaiting the results of a second round of samples taken after rainstorms the Friday after the incident that may give us a better indication of any harmful components that remain in the water,” he said.

Dale Urban, a site assessment section manager with the state Department of Environmental Quality, said continuing regulatory oversight will involve water quality scientists and the Davis County Health Department.

Astin said some residents have voiced concerns about the possibility of indoor air contamination in their homes, which the health department can take tests to determine.

"We have been taking questions and answering them when we get the calls," said Dave Spence, director of the health department's environmental health sciences division. He said a gas analyzer will detect common air pollutants, among them hydrocarbons.

"These are real-time monitors with results that don't have to be taken to a lab. It just reads them right there," Spence said.

Astin said there should not have been any volatile organic compounds — or hazardous pollutants — released.

"Hydrocarbons can be detected at one part per billion levels," he said. "So there is no doubt you can smell it, but the probability is if you took samples you could not detect it."

Those seeking a test can call the health department's environmental health services division at 801-525-5128.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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