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Soil and Groundwater Testing for Petroleum

Proposed environmental soil and groundwater testing near the wharf in Kaunakakai will take place next year to assess levels of petroleum from historic leaks. The routine testing will be performed by Chevron Environmental Management Company (CEMC) and includes evaluating the facility currently owned by Island Petroleum, Inc., and the surrounding area where their terminal is located.

“Over the years, releases of petroleum have occurred which is not uncommon in industrial areas,” said CEMC Project Manager Karl Bewley.

According to Bewley, the work CEMC will perform is a standard approach to determine if there are environmental impacts resulting from past and current petroleum terminal operations.  Chevron is responsible for environmental issues associated with the site and will propose a plan to mitigate any impacts.

URS Corporation Davies Pacific Center on Oahu, an environmental engineering firm, has been hired by CEMC to perform environmental consulting and testing services. Chevron will work with the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office to perform the tests, Bewley said.

At many terminals across the state, there is a historic presence of petroleum in soil and groundwater, said DOH Hazard Evaluation Emergency Response Office Site Discovery, Assessment and Response Supervisor Fenix Grange.

According to Grange, this has occurred in the past in Kaunakakai at the former Chevron facility. The purpose of the additional monitoring wells is to determine the full extent of the historic petroleum contamination, after utility work in the roadway next to the facility discovered petroleum-contaminated soil and groundwater. The monitoring wells include the drilling of eight test holes dug five feet deep.

Known historical petroleum releases at the site date back as far as the 1970s and 1980s, with the largest documented release at the terminal occurring in 1982, said John Peard, the current DOH remediation project manager for the site. Although petroleum recovery efforts were made after the 1982 release, in 2004, the DOH required Chevron to install up to 17 monitoring wells around the facility to further evaluate groundwater quality as a result of past releases, Peard said..

“Chevron has maintained the responsibility for the environmental cleanup work, and recently they’ve been diligent in moving forward to further assess historic releases adjacent to the facility,” Peard said.

Recently, groundwater monitoring at the facility has been performed every three months, with the latest tests being performed in late 2013 and again in March and June of 2014. From this latest groundwater monitoring at the facility, one well at the north end of facility had oil just above appropriate state action limits in March. However, levels in this well were below action limits in June, Peard said.

“We believe contamination discovered in this area has been in the ground for a longtime,” Peard said. “Standard Oil and then Chevron operated the plant from the 1950s through 1983, and most releases likely happened during this period.”

Although the latest monitoring results on the petroleum terminal property don’t reveal significant groundwater contamination, concern has shifted west of the plant in the roadway where contamination of soil and groundwater was documented during utility installation work in 2012-2013, Peard said. During upgrade work to the wharf to install a new waterline and sewer, soil contamination and oil on the groundwater surface, was discovered.

“DOH is now requiring Chevron to conduct additional soil and groundwater testing to determine the extent of oil contamination outside the terminal property,” Peard said. “The first step is to determine the full extent of the historic contamination outside of the terminal property, including the areas documented during recent utility work, and then evaluate options and develop a plan to mitigate it.”

The Molokai Planning Commission discussed the environmental testing at their meeting three weeks ago and approved the Special Management Area minor permit for the project.

Maui County Molokai planner Ben Sticka explained that the holes, or monitoring wells, will aid in the identification of impacts of petroleum releases into soil and groundwater. The project will cost $120,000, he said.

The entire study is expected to take 45 days and a public report will be published by the DOH. Fieldwork to gather lab samples will take a week and a half followed by data analysis. If the data suggests a need to continue monitoring the site, monitoring wells will be installed for at least one year. The project is expected to begin in early 2015 and will be completed within one year, Bewley said.

The wells will be placed on the terminal and immediately next to the facility along the side of Beach Place or Kaunakakai Place. They will be flush ground, with a surface flat to the ground, Bewley said. He added the monitoring wells will have a concrete monument around them to maintain their stability.

“It is standard work that [Chevron] assesses conditions of a site,” said URS Environmental Remediation Department Manager Rochelle Shang. “It’s a busy road so we’ll be conducting traffic control to make sure there aren’t any interferences with the community and to make sure everybody is safe.”

Right now, Chevron is reviewing historic records related to the area and surrounding properties.  Meanwhile, no information will be released until a complete set of facts are gathered, analyzed and the report is filed with the DOH.

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