Site with dirty past is on city to-do list

The city of Ashland is taking steps to make sure that a site with a history of petroleum contamination no longer poses any danger.

Years ago, the Standard Oil Co. railroad company, the Jackson County government and others owned parcels of land along B Street that are now owned by the city.

The city uses the land at 1097 B Street as a storage yard for sand, rocks, vehicles and heavy equipment. It is known as the B Street Municipal Yard.

But it was once used as a place to store oil, and it also had underground diesel and gas fuel tanks.

After acquiring the land from different owners, the city of Ashland removed fuel pumps and decommissioned the underground fuel tanks.

In the early 2000s, workers were building a temporary fire station on the land to house firefighters while the downtown fire station was replaced with a larger building. Workers discovered that the site was still contaminated.

"There was a petroleum sheen in the groundwater," said city of Ashland Engineering Services Manager Jim Olson.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality tests revealed fuel contamination, so the city of Ashland pulled out the tanks that were still underground to eliminate any chance of seepage, and then filled in the area with sand, he said.

The city is seeking bids from teams of professionals to conduct further testing of the site. Bidders must have a geologist or engineer on their team with a DEQ soil clean-up license. Bids are due by 2 p.m. on Dec. 22.

If contamination is found, the team must work with DEQ and the city of Ashland to take any necessary steps to deal with the pollutants, according to city documents.

Ultimately, the city hopes to close the chapter on the property's history as a polluted area and get the land taken off DEQ's list of contaminated sites, Olson said.

"We hope to get that statement from DEQ that no further action is required and there's no further chance of contamination," he said.

During its ownership of the land, the city has taken steps to keep from adding to the problem.

Rainwater that drains from the land, which is mostly paved, enters a filtering system before it travels into the storm drain system, Olson said. Storm drain pipes empty into local creeks.

A vehicle washing area at the B Street site ties into the city's sewage treatment system so that dirty water coming off vehicles is treated at the sewage plan. Treated sewage effluent flows into Ashland Creek.

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