- Associated Press - Sunday, April 24, 2016

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) - Shuttering 70 more wells may put an end to Mandan’s 31-year saga of diesel contamination.

The state Department of Health and the Mandan Remediation Trust recently approved closing the wells and eight remote manifolds, part of a system used to collect more than 1 million gallons of fuel contamination since 2007, the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/26fvGne ) reported. The wells to be closed, plugged or removed are located north of First Street. Scarcer amounts of contamination makes it likely there will be more closings within two years, according to MRT.

A well can be closed when it collects less than 0.1 feet of diesel for at least one year, said David Glatt, chief of the Environmental Health Section of the state Health Department.

“We’re hopeful, in the next couple of years, we’ll have most of them closed out,” he said.

An update on the 285-well collection system will be presented May 3 at the Mandan City Commission meeting, said City Administrator Jim Neubauer. On Tuesday, the MRT discussed what to do with 22 miles of lateral pipes in the downtown area.



The closing of the wells this summer will leave about 180 in place, MRT member Francis Schwindt said. Many operate periodically because the contamination has shrunk from its original border. Maps show the depths of the spill have dropped from nearly 4.5 feet nine years ago to 6 inches or less, said Scott Radig, director of the Health Department Waste Management Division.

In 2004, a $25 million settlement was reached between BNSF Railway and the MRT. Legislation and city ordinance changes waived the liability on banks if they loaned money for the purchase of property in spill areas if a sound remediation plan was in place. In 2005, Leggette, Brashears & Graham was hired to create the diesel collection system for MRT that was activated nine years ago.

The spill, discovered in 1985 at the Law Enforcement Center, led MRT to buy property and raze buildings so it could install the wells, Neubauer said.

“It’s very much a success. We went from significant free-based product to a very limited area,” Schwindt said. “We went from no development to where you are starting to see development and new buildings. That is a success.”

MRT members expressed confidence the vast majority of the contamination has been collected and residual contamination will break down naturally with bacteria in the soil. The wells to be abandoned this summer have shown no free product for a year or more, Schwindt said.

“If over a year we don’t see any product come back into the wells, we feel those are sufficiently remediated and are candidates for closure,” Glatt said. “All indications are the well system is moving ahead as it was designed and we are seeing intended results in the cleanup. We’re hopeful in the next couple of years, we’ll have most of them closed up.”

Glatt said there will be more monitoring when the entire system is shut down to ensure diesel hasn’t returned.

About $6.6 million remains from the settlement, which will be used to remove wells, fill them to state Health Department standards and close them. About $300,000 per year is spent running the wells. Leftover funds could be turned over to the city or used to obtain longer-term insurance against future contamination finds.

Development can and has occurred at the properties within the well system, but won’t be conducive to basement building, Neubauer said.

“Where we expected sites to be razed and developed, they have been developed,” he said.

Such sites include Library Square I and II, Mandan Place where Furniture First used to be, the commercial/apartment space Collins on Main and American Bank Center at the Iverson Building. The Mandan Supplemental Environmental Projects Trusts received $2.5 million from the settlement for downtown projects such as Dykshoorn Park.

“For me, that’s the success. People are willing to build and expand,” Glatt said.

All of the properties MRT purchased on behalf of the city have been developed, according to Schwindt.

“There were a lot of people who doubted anything would be rebuilt there,” Neubauer said. “Through the remediation system, efforts of the city, the state, there are ways you can build on these sites. Developers have shown you can do that.”

“The goal of the trust was to give property owners the ability to buy and sell without the fear of having to clean up a fuel spill,” said Neubauer, who indicated the best sign of progress is many people think the spill already is cleaned up or have forgotten about it.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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