Pollution plumes stopped by drought but how much longer for cleanup?

April 1, 2019
by Lois Henry
Lois Henry

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The good news is that more than 40 million pounds of petroleum hydrocarbons have been sucked — literally — out of the ground around the former Shell Oil (now Alon) refinery on Rosedale Highway.

And the really good news is that toxic plume, which had been creeping toward the Kern River bed and several drinking-water wells, was stopped, largely due to the drought, so the crud is contained.

In fact, the plume is shrinking. So, yay drought!

The bad news is there’s really no telling how much work remains before the site is “clean,” according to Doug Patteson, a supervising water resource control engineer for the Central Valley Regional Water Resources Control Board.

“There were three separate refineries there over about 100 years so there’s no telling how much stuff leaked out and how much is still there,” he said. “It’s safe to say the cleanup will continue for years, if not tens of years.”

Well, that’s kind of a bummer.

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.

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