BP says Wood River clean up has 'never stopped'

Steve Korris Jun. 9, 2008, 1:12am

Deer Park

WOOD RIVER – Atlantic Richfield environmental business manager Tom Tunnicliff, responsible for cleanup of the former American Oil Company refinery in Wood River, says he can't talk about how his predecessor, Greg Jevyak, handled the cleanup.

"Greg's tenure with the company is human resource related issues that I am not at liberty to discuss," Tunnicliff said June 5.

Jevyak left Atlantic Richfield, an affiliate of BP, in 2006.

At the time he lived in a home that BP cleanup contractor Rick Jones owned.

Jones, owner of Triad Industries and development company RLJ LLC, had left the project earlier after suing BP and reaching a settlement.

Their departures followed a mysterious reversal of results from soil tests, which revealed high levels of contamination where previous tests indicated low levels.

Scientists at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency knew about the reversal, but nothing in their files shows that they established a cause or even investigated it.

"Just because you are not aware of an effort doesn't mean the effort doesn't exist," Tunnicliff said.

He said confidentially provisions in the settlement of the lawsuit keep him from commenting on events that changed the direction of the project.

Illinois EPA and BP announced in 2002 a plan to clean up 840 acres at the old refinery and redevelop it for new businesses.

The plan called for Triad to clean 19 parcels, one at a time, so that RLJ LLC could lease or sell the ground.

Soil tests yielded positive results at first but turned negative in 2004.

BP and Jones then stopped getting along, and in 2005 Triad Industries and RLJ LCC sued BP in Madison County circuit court.

Jones claimed BP never intended to let him manage, lease or sublease the property.

BP did not answer the suit, which gathered dust for six months and then disappeared by agreement between BP and Jones in 2006.

Jevyak left BP around the time of the settlement.

Tunnicliff took his place, aiming to carry out the remediation plan.

"Obviously redevelopment has not come about as fast as either the city or the company would like," Tunnicliff said.

"The effort will continue until it comes to fruition at the degree the company and the city expect," he said.

For more than 20 years BP has pumped more than a million gallons of groundwater a day so that contamination does not escape to adjacent properties, he said.

In a May 30 letter to the Madison Record, he wrote, "Clean-up has never stopped."

He wrote, "Even during a transition period when a new environmental contractor was brought on board, clean-up activities continued."

The Record incorrectly reported that contamination halted redevelopment, he wrote.

"Our plans for the site simply changed when a decision was made to go a different direction," he wrote.

"Litigation surrounding that decision did slow redevelopment efforts, but those issues are resolved and redevelopment plans are moving forward," he wrote.

A real estate broker is evaluating offers, he wrote.

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