Former Marathon sludge pit reuseable

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 2, 2009



GARYVILLE – A pair of state environmental agencies on Tuesday officially declared two former dumping grounds for oily sludge, situated in the heart of the Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery in Garyville, are ready for reuse.

Paul Miller, assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency presented Marathon with a signed certificate and a plaque indicating the waste holding pits are no longer a threat to human health.

“This is a remarkable transformation and a great achievement for this refinery,” Miller said. “This land is now ready for valid productive use again.”

Wally Dows, environmental safety and security manager for Marathon, said the refinery closed the dumping ponds, which were previously used for the temporary holding of oily refining waste before the material could be land farmed, in 1988 when it failed to meet requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The land remained stagnant for years until the refinery excavated the land and refilled the pits with clay in 1997.

Dows said the refinery has monitored the groundwater and soils surrounding the pits since the excavation. He said tests conducted earlier this year indicated the land has remediated itself so well it could be suitable for residential use.

Tuesday’s ceremony marked the second time in as many years that Marathon has achieved that level of clearance for land on the refinery used for waste disposal. Last year, DEQ and EPA declared about 15 acres of property once used for the landfarming of oily waste fit for reuse by the refinery.

“Marathon continues to demonstrate that a clean environment is important to them,” said DEQ Secretary Harold Leggett in a statement. “It is a testament to the work many people put into cleaning up this land and getting it ready for reuse.”

Richard Bedell, division manager for the Garyville Refinery, said the “ready for reuse” distinction shows industries do not have to give up profitability to remain environmentally sound.

“We like to expect more and do more here,” Bedell said.

Dows said the testing and monitoring would continue until 2030 on a biannual basis. As the land improves further, the testing would decrease again to once every three years. He said there is no immediate plan for the property, which is currently being used as a staging area for construction equipment as the refinery undergoes a $3.5 billion expansion.

“I think in the future we will determine a more permanent use for the land,” Dows said. “It’s a prime location right in the middle of the older part of the original refinery.”

Dows said the sludge pits were the last parcels of land on the refinery in need of some form of remediation.