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Utah, Chevron draft $5.35M settlement for Willard Bay spill

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Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo Workers with booms and absorbent material contain a leak from a Chevron pipeline in a wetland area between Willard Bay North Marina and I-15 Tuesday March 19. A proposed settlement between the company and the state of Utah would require Chevron to pay $5.35 million.

By brett prettyman

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Dec 17 2013 10:19AM
Updated Dec 20, 2013 01:34PM

Chevron Pipe Line Company would pay $5.35 million for spilling up to 27,500 gallons of diesel fuel in March at Willard Bay State Park if a draft settlement with the Utah Division of Water Quality and Utah State Parks and Recreation is approved.

"It has been a difficult road. We are satisfied with this settlement," Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ), said Tuesday. "We think this is fair and we think it serves as a deterrent to other releases that may occur."

The draft agreement is broken into three parts. The largest total, $4.45 million, would be used for mitigation projects and includes a $719,000 credit Chevron was given for projects already completed.

Baker said Chevron "went beyond the scope of the remediation effort" by enhancing habitat, re-sodding parts of the park and installing new trail fencing and sidewalk.

Ongoing and future projects at Willard Bay would be funded with $600,000 from the $4.5 million. Baker said the remaining money will be used for mitigation projects selected by his agency and could include areas not directly impacted by the spill.

A civil penalty of $350,000 would be paid to DWQ and $550,000 would go to the Department of Natural Resources and Utah State Parks for the lost use of the marina and campgrounds during the spill and the cleanup.

"We appreciate the work done by DWQ and Chevron in negotiating the settlement," Fred Hayes, director of Utah State Parks, said in prepared release. "We feel the settlement adequately addresses the problems caused by the spill."

The settlement would affirm that Chevron responded appropriately to the Notice of Violation and Compliance Order it received on April 13 for the rupture of a 6-foot section of pipe in the state park.

Chevron no longer owns the pipeline that runs from Salt Lake City to Spokane, Wash. The line running through Willard Bay State Park, and not far from Interstate 15, is now owned by Tesoro Corporation. It is operating at 80 percent capacity, as allowed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Chevron had previously been fined $426,600 for spills equaling 54,600 gallons on Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City. The company also spent about $43 million in cleanup and mitigation in neighborhoods and at Liberty Park.

The Willard Bay spill could have been much worse if it were not for a series of beaver dams that slowed the diesel fuel from reaching the nearby reservoir, causing some officials to proclaim the animals the "Hero Beavers" of Willard Bay.

"They absolutely impeded the pollutant from getting to Willard Bay and they truly are heroes in this episode," Baker said. "We would have had a much bigger problem if it reached the surface water."

Water at Willard Bay is designated for culinary use and irrigation, but it is not currently being used for human consumption.

Six beavers soaked in diesel fuel were pulled from the ponds and taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden. Five were released in the Uinta Mountains in August. Another beaver had to have a toe amputated and is still at the facility.

Caring for the animals was time consuming and the non-profit center had to cancel its annual fundraiser as a result. Chevron contributed $35,000 to the rehabilitation center to compensate for the cancellation.

Baker will review public comments, which are being accepted until Jan. 16, and accept, modify or abandon the settlement. A new procedure requires that the Water Quality Board also approve of any settlement.

"We are glad the Willard Bay spill is in the rearview mirror and we can get on with our day-to-day duties," Baker said.

brettp@sltrib.com

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman

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