Extent of fuel spill at Willard Bay State Park remains unknown

Published: Wednesday, March 20 2013 6:20 p.m. MDT

Ultimately, Chevron spent $75 million in cleanup costs and paid out $4.5 million in a settlement with the state and city that was reached in 2011.

The settlement does not void Chevron's cleanup obligations should any contamination problems surface in the urban creek, and a number of restoration projects are planned.

State water quality officials leveled penalties at Chevron for $423,000 for the first Red Butte spill, and on Wednesday, regulators said the company's pattern of water contamination could be a factor in subsequent action stemming from the Willard breach.

"History will weigh in on this with any determination we make," said John Whitehead, assistant director of the Utah Division of Water Quality.

The unnerving effect of twin spills on the same pipeline in such a short duration of time prompted Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker to convene a citizen's working group probing pipeline safety in the Salt Lake Valley.

Grant money led to the commission of a report released last year by Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust.

His report noted that Utah lawmakers could implement more oversight of pipelines in the state and the attorney general's office could explore its role related to enforcement actions that could be taken under damage prevention laws.

In the report, Weimer noted that 45 of 48 states have adopted regulatory laws over pipelines that are more stringent than the federal government. Utah is one of the three states that has not.

He also said government and industry have the capability of improving transparency through online posting of public documents related to pipelines, but it remains challenging to get information.

"Industry and government could create trust by posting more information than they are already required to prepare, instead of creating barriers by expecting the public to go through the formal public information request process," the report said.

E-mail: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

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