IEPA director unaware of Wood River problems

Ann Knef May 26, 2008, 7:36am

IEPA Director Douglas Scott

Former IEPA Director Renee Cipriano

Deer Park as pictured April 9.

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Douglas Scott was unaware of problems in a six-year-long Wood River refinery clean-up until a newspaper report documented them, internal communications show.

An article published by the Record April 25 reported the breakdown of a major remediation and redevelopment project that began in 2002 on BP Amoco-owned property in which the IEPA has regulatory oversight.

Files reviewed at the IEPA Springfield office showed that two years into the clean-up, under the direction of developer Rick Jones and his company, Triad Industries LLC, the effort collapsed in 2004. Soil samples revealed contaminants that had not showed up in previous samples.

After the Record published a detailed account of the project, Scott asked a staff member in the IEPA communications department to "help me understand this site," according to an email he sent on April 29.

Emails related to the Wood River clean-up were obtained by the Record through a Freedom of Information Act request. The paper had sought all official communication, internal memos, as well as emails, received or sent by Director Scott since Jan. 1 pertaining to the project.

Scott wrote to a communications staff member on April 29, "The article is pretty bad about resolving anything for the reader."

BP Amoco has spent approximately $30 million on remediation in Wood River since 2002, a company spokesman said recently.

Earlier this month Wood River City Manager Jim Schneider and councilman Bill Redden said the city is considering legal action over BP Amoco's slow cleanup of refinery pollution.

"We are not happy with the ways things are going with BP," Schneider said. "Things are taking too long," he said.

Schneider said he and mayor Fred Ufert would reserve further comment.

Councilman Redden said, "We are going to have to do something."

He said, "It seems like they are carrying it on out and not doing anything."

In the meantime, an IEPA letter addressed to Wood River City Councilman Kyle Anderson on May 2 outlines the status of remediation.

According to the letter, "Area 13," also known as Deer Park, is still continuing to be remediated.

Deer Park -- where public officials including former Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano cermoniously broke ground for the project in 2002 -- is open to the public.

"Remediation and redevelopment of these facilities is a very difficult task," the letter states. "Illinois EPA believes that BP is carrying out the required soil and groundwater remedial activities in an acceptable manner.

"Furthermore, Illinois EPA has evaluated the site and determined that it is not adversely affecting the health of the residents of Wood River."

The letter is signed by Stephen F. Nightingale, a manager in the IEPA's Bureau of Land.

Cipriano has not returned a phone call or email seeking comment on the matter.

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