Old Standard Oil Refinery in Laramie Moves Closer to Cleanup
While Laramie is a beautiful community, surrounded by mountains and amazing outdoor playgrounds that many of its citizens enjoy throughout the year, there are also some unsightly parts of our town that could use a little TLC. The old Standard Oil Refinery, which has sat abandoned and neglected for over twenty years near Laramie's West Side Neighborhood, is one of those sites, but thanks to the Laramie Rivers Conservation District it is moving closer to cleanup. They officially bought the old oil refinery site on January 18th of this year and are planning to start reclamation work soon with a perimeter fence.
Taking a look at the history of this site and the remnants of the oil refinery that remain today, it is easy to see why the cleanup is necessary. According to the Laramie Rivers Conservation District, the refinery operated from 1921 to 1932 as a 236 acre site. While it was only in use a little over a decade, any time you have an older facility like this, there is going to be some lingering contamination, and there is. While the Conservation District told us that it could be a lot worse, there are still barrels of oil at the site along with metals in the groundwater and hydrocarbons/metals in the surface soil. Other hazard on the property include lots of sharp re-bar sticking out everywhere amongst crumbling buildings on the site. There are also tunnels and manholes on the verge of collapse, which are a high priority for the Conservation district to address. The site has become a popular hangout for local youth partying and is constantly crime-ridden as well. The fence mentioned above is their first step in fixing these potentially dangerous circumstances.
Looking a little more into this facility's past, contamination of the site was not only due to the oil, but also to the Yttrium processing plant that inhabited the site following the refinery. Tony Hoch, Director of the Laramie Rivers Conservation District, told us that Yttrium is a metal that was proposed for use to case fuel rods in nuclear reactors. While the Yttrium processing facility here in Laramie never really panned out, the company did however bring in ore containing Yttrium and uranium that was of course radioactive. In the late 1980's, the EPA actually did some cleanup of the site when they removed 44 drums of the low-level radioactive ore. Since then the site has not been touched and it has continued to crumble until now.
Hock explained that rehabilitating sites such as these is well within the Conservation District's mission, and they have taken on other large scale cleanup projects like this in the past such as the River Restoration Project. This sight of urban blight is actually within an up and coming area in town, and Hoch feels that this project will encourage further growth. The route recently approved by city council for the new Harney Street Viaduct actually goes through part of this site and may help to spur future development in this part of town as well.
While the Conservation District does now officially own the 4.6 acres of land that the old refinery buildings stand on, the cleanup is not yet a sure bet. This month funds to support the project from the county and city level will be evaluated and bigger EPA grants totaling around $200,000 will be applied for this coming fall. Community support will be integral to the project as well.
Hoch told us that it may be up to five years for the site cleanup to be complete and that someday they hope to build the new Conservation District's offices on the land if possible. However any future development on the site will depend upon the extent that the site can be reclaimed. As the project progresses all information on its progress can be found in the Wyoming Room of the Albany County Library for public review.