Mandan News

Clean-up nearly finished

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

It has been almost three decades since fuel was first detected beneath the streets of Mandan. Initially, the clean-up was expected to take only three to five years, but as time continued moving forward, the situation almost felt hopeless.

The contamination had been caused by fuel spills from BNSF railways, which were the largest spills in the United States at the time.

After a number of ups and downs, including various lawsuits, and an ever expanding area of contamination, the slow progress was frustrating.

Today though, with around 2.7 million pounds of hydrocarbons collected to date, Mandan may finally be able to permanently stop its recovery wells by 2016.

Tim Kenyon, senior vice president of Leggette, Brashears & Graham Inc. told the Mandan City Commission on March 4, the city had gone from nearly four feet of diesel under the streets in a large part of downtown, to just a minimal amount being collected by a few wells today.

“It shows real and substantial progress in the cleanup of downtown Mandan,” he said.
When LBG was hired in 2004, around 60 wells had been installed either by BNSF or other contrators.
By 2007, an additional 300 plus wells had been installed by LBG.

“When it thaws out this spring, we are going to shut down 322 of those wells and we will go into a yearlong phase of shut-down monitoring,” Kenyon said. “We’ll monitor those wells twice in a year period — this spring and the spring of 2015. And if those wells are the condition we think they will be, we’ll be decommissioning those wells in the spring of 2015.”

There will remain 55 wells operating, to collect the remaining pockets of diesel left. Those wells will be monitored, and if they are no longer collecting fuel by next spring, they will be monitored to an additional year and then decommissioned.

“The best case is we’ll be decommissioning those wells in the summer of 2016 and we’ll be out of your hair and the Mandan remediation will be complete,” Kenyon said.
While the clean-up took nearly six times as long as it was first suggested, the end is finally in sight.