Stalled Wood River cleanup begs question: What did $30 million buy?

By Ann Knef | May 12, 2008

Six years and about $30 million later, questions remain about the integrity of a major environmental clean-up in Wood River.

Six years and about $30 million later, questions remain about the integrity of a major environmental clean-up in Wood River.

More than 800 acres at the site of the former American Oil Company (Amoco) refinery-- deemed hazardous to the public health by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency-- were targeted for remediation in an ambitious plan unveiled in 2002.

But two years into the project, under the direction of developer Rick Jones and his company, Triad Industries LLC, the effort collapsed. Illinois EPA-taken soil samples revealed contaminants that had not showed up in previous samples.

Last week, Wood River city manager Jim Schneider suggested the city could take legal action against BP, the corporate giant currently responsible for the property and its hundreds of acres of contaminated soil.

BP merged with Amoco, a successor to John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, in 1998.

$30 million worth of uncertainty?

According to a Sept. 7, 2007 report in the St. Louis Business Journal, BP has spent $100 million over the last "several years" to clean up Wood River.

BP's environmental business manager Tom Tunnicliff on Friday, however, estimated that BP has spent approximately $30 million on the site since 2002. He said remediation efforts in Wood River date back to the mid-to-late 1980s.

Tunnicliff said there were "no problems with compliance with state regulations," and that clean-up efforts were proceeding on schedule.
But, he said that land redevelopment was not progressing "as fast as we'd like."

Tunnicliff also commented that a lawsuit filed by Jones against BP in 2004, about the time the clean-up effort stalled, was settled in 2005 under confidential terms.

With the exception of Illinois EPA spokesperson Maggie Carson, who said last month that she could not "definitively" confirm that remediated areas in Wood River were, in fact, actually cleaned up, current and former state officials contacted by the Record have not returned phone calls.

Messages have been left with State Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton), State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), State Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) and former Illinois EPA director Renee Cipriano.

Cipriano resigned from office in May 2005, and has since worked as a lobbyist with the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin.

In the meantime, the Record has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Illinois EPA director Douglas Scott.

The newspaper has asked for all written documents pertaining to the Wood River clean up, such as official correspondence and internal memos, as well as electronic communication, such as e-mails and instant messages received by or sent by Dir. Scott from Jan. 1 through May 6.

Under FOIA provisions, a public office has seven business days to respond to a request for information.

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St. Louis Business Journal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

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