ABC 4 gets a look at hundreds of documents between Chevron and DEQ regarding Willard Bay Spill

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - For weeks we’ve been monitoring the cleanup efforts at Willard Bay and asking the tough questions about what went wrong and what's being done to clean it up. ABC 4’s Kimberly Nelson obtained hundreds of emails between Chevron, Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. EPA to better understand what’s been going on behind the scenes.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - For weeks we’ve been monitoring the cleanup efforts at Willard Bay and asking the tough questions about what went wrong and what's being done to clean it up. ABC 4’s Kimberly Nelson obtained hundreds of emails between Chevron, Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. EPA to better understand what’s been going on behind the scenes.

While the documents show some places where the oil company clearly failed, they also reveal how well of a job Chevron is doing righting its wrong.

On March 18th, 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into Willard Bay and we’ve learned still more than 2,000 gallons have yet to be recovered.

According to the Corrective Action Order filed against Chevron the pipeline was constructed between 1949 and 1952. The last time it was inspected was March of 2007. We went to Chevron's Salt Lake office to find out why it's been more than five years since it's been looked at, but no one there wanted to speak with us and we couldn't even get anyone to give us any answers over the phone.

The last time we actually spoke to someone at Chevron was when we were able to tour the site two weeks ago. At that time I asked why Chevron had been so reluctant to give media access.

Patrick Green from Chevron said, “I just don't think it's safe to have people in their walking around with cameras and heavy equipment."

Chevron also hasn't answered any questions about its track record in Utah. This is the third notice of violation in the last three years. The previous was for the spill of crude oil into Red Butte Creek back in 2010.     

While Chevron hasn't been very willing to speak with the media, they have keep in constant contact with the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. EPA.

Joyel Dhieux, Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the U.S. EPA told ABC 4 News, "I think it’s actually going very well. I think we’ve been very pleased with how the cleanup is proceeding.”

According to the documents, at last count on April 10th, three birds, two ducks, two cat fish, five trout and more than 1,500 sticklebacks as well as several other fish have turned up dead.

There are also those six beavers that were rescued. They are doing well and we’ve learned they’re expected to be released next month. What's still unknown is how much of their habitat has been impacted.

The documents show Chevron has removed much of the diesel soaked vegetation and continues to excavate the beach where most of the sand has been contaminated. According to their recovery plan they’re going to continue the clean up process until there's no noticeable diesel or any that would pose a threat to wildlife. What's left on the vegetation that is deemed safe is going to be allowed to weather and degrade naturally.

Ground water sampling of the 11 wells is expected to begin late this month as is the hydrostatic testing to determine whether the pipeline can return back to 100% flow.

Once Chevron has completed the cleanup they won’t be done with the Willard Bay. The oil company is going to be part of a Wildlife Team assembled of state, federal and Chevron personnel. It's going to be their job to monitor recovery of Willard Bay, and its wildlife, for the next three years.

Chevron expects to have the park back open to visitors by early June.

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