Handling Pollution, Case by Case: Oklahoma Corporation Commission Official Outlines Method for Gasoline Cleanup

Article excerpt

Neil Garrett used to work in the oil industry, finding petroleum to extract from the ground. Now he uses that same geology background to find unwanted petroleum products.

Garrett works for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's Petroleum Storage Tank Division as a project environmental analyst supervisor. He helps manage more than 400 active leaking underground petroleum storage tank cases across the state.

Scroll to the bottom to check out an interactive map of open leaking underground storage tank cases

The OCC uses a method called risk-based corrective action to determine how bad each case of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks is, and the best way to clean up the pollution. The process was so popular and cost-effective that the National Academy of Sciences wrote a book about the method, and Garrett incorporated his knowledge into the publication.

The trick is to determine if anyone nearby is at risk from the contamination, and then reduce that pollution to a safe level. In some cases, his division won't activate a case. If the underground plume is stable and there is no risk to people working in nearby buildings of inhaling vapors, or there aren't any nearby water wells, then the pollution can often be left alone.

"One of the biggest challenges is trying to be a fortuneteller and tell how property might be developed in the future," he said.

In Norman, there was an underground plume that was safely contained near Robinson Street and a railroad crossing. When the city decided to redevelop the road, the agency had to help the city clean up the pollution that previously wasn't a problem.

Because of many underground utilities, it can be costly and complicated to clean up the polluted soil and remove the fuel. In a pollution case near Morgan Road in Mustang, the OCC has been working on the site for nearly four years. At a gas station, an underground storage tank leaked 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of gasoline before the pollution was discovered. …