Bloomfield in process of acquiring two parcels of land

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BLOOMFIELD — A skate park and athletic fields could someday replace contaminated land near the center of Bloomfield.

Bloomfield is in the process of acquiring two of three parcels it hopes to remediate using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield Program. The city is also speaking with Giant Industries about acquiring the parcel where a former Giant Crude Station was located.

The parcels are located along West Blanco Boulevard and stretch from North Frontier Street to North 5th Street on both sides of the intersection, north of Central Primary Elementary School and Salmon Park.

“The Brownfield Program is basically a funding mechanism that was set up by the EPA, and essentially it allows local governments to go in and purchase properties where there’s either a perceived or recognized environmental condition,” Bloomfield public works director Jason Thomas said while presenting the project to Bloomfield City Council on Monday.

Thomas explained the city would receive a grant to clean up the property and redevelop it. The city has not decided what to do with the land once it has been remediated, but a skate park is at the top of the list of possibilities. The city also is considering creating Young American Football League fields.

If the entire three parcels are acquired, part of the land could be turned into a commercial and residential mixed-use area with shops on the first floor and apartments on the second floor, Thomas said.

Parcels have long history of oil production

Oil production at the site dates back to the late 1920s, according to a report compiled by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department in 2000. The report compiled by EMNRD in 2000 lists Aerex Refining, Plateau Refining, Shell and Clayton Investment, or Thriftway Marketing, as companies that have operated refining operations or other businesses at the location.

City Councilor Ken Hare said the contamination could date back to the 1930s.

“My dad always said that in the ‘30s, he and his friends would go down and float their wooden boats in an oil pond that was there for a really long time,” Hare said during the council meeting on Monday.

The state Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s reports on the contamination cite a former 55,000-gallon storage tank as a possible source of that reported oil pool. The tank was constructed in 1956 and used through 1991.

Giant discovered contamination in 1994

Giant officials discovered hydrocarbons in the subsurface soil near the tank in 1994 while the company was closing it. Soil samples showed three types of fuel hydrocarbons, as well as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene.

The contaminated soil impacts an area 200 feet wide and extending 275 feet to the southwest, including onto land the city is in the process of acquiring. The top layer of the soil is between 8 and 12 feet below the surface, and the contaminated level extends 17 feet below the surface.

In 1995, the tank caught fire and subsequently was removed from the property in 1996, according to the EMNRD report.

Former City Councilor Elwin Roark championed the project for several years. Roark said the petroleum had almost reached a residential area before the flow stopped.

The state Oil Conservation District has drafted a letter stating Lampliter Enterprises LLC and Clayton Investment, which own the two parcels the city is in the process of acquiring, will not be held responsible for the contamination. Giant has not received a letter absolving it of responsibility, which will be needed before a transfer agreement can be drafted for the third parcel.

“We need to move forward on this,” said Hare. “This is a big project. ... As long as we are protected from liability, we’ve got to get started. Otherwise, we’re going to have this thing here forever.”

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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