Kerr-Mcgee Refinery, Soil Program and Groundwater Remediation

About this cleanup site

Site Information (click to expand)

Kerr-McGee Refinery:

Location: Cushing, Payne County, Oklahoma

Latitude/Longitude: 36°00’52.5″N, 96°45’30.5″W

Section, Township and Range: S2 Section 22, Township 18N, Range 5E; NE Section 27, Township 18N, Range 5E; and SW Section 23, Township 18N, Range 5E

Site Type: Refinery and processing facility

Area: 440 acres

Voluntary Cleanup Program: Consent Order C-90-91-H (1990)

Current Status: Active

Click to View Interactive Site Map

Contact Information (click to expand)

Cleanup Oversight Agency: DEQ

Responsible Agency: Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust LLC

Office: DEQ, Land Protection Division, (405) 702-5100

DEQ Project Manager: Todd Downham, (405) 702-5136

DEQ Press Contact: Erin Hatfield, (405) 702-7119

Site History/Background (click to expand)

Site History and Background:

The site was originally used as tank storage pre-1915.  In the 1910s C.B. Shafer, a wildcatter who discovered Cushing-Drumright Oil Field, opened the Shaffer Oil Refining Company.  The refinery was named the Deep Rock Oil & Refining Company when it was purchased by Standard Gas in 1923.  Kerr-McGee purchased the petroleum refinery in 1956.  When the refinery shut down in 1972, it was used as crude oil storage until 1995.

During its time of operation, the refinery produced wastes of petroleum acid sludges that were disposed of in unlined pits.  While Kerr-McGee obeyed then-existing guidance and regulations, the surrounding soils and groundwater were affected chemically and radiologically.

Kerr-McGee was acquired by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, and in 2006 the site was transferred to Tronox, a subsidiary of Kerr-McGee.  Tronox filed for bankruptcy in 2009 followed by the properties transfer to the Multistate Trust in 2011.  The Multistate Trust is the result of a settlement between Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and the Federal Government with the purpose of funding the remediation of the refinery site.  The Multistate Trust is used to fund cleanup and meet regulatory obligations at Tronox sites, specifically to benefit human and environmental health in Oklahoma and several other states.

Cleanup Information (click to expand)

Cleanup History:

In the 1970s, Kerr-McGee made efforts to remove some of the sites contaminated soils.  They demolished several buildings and removed material (which included an access road, contaminated Skull Creek sand banks, and a drainage channel).  Low-level radioactive soils were excavated, contained in drums, and buried at the site.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted site audits and surveys to ensure sufficient remediation.  Low-level radioactive sediments were found at several locations.

The site was investigated to determine if it should be added to the National Priorities List (NPL).  Presence of contaminants in the underlying unconfined aquifer included chromium, lead, uranium, and radium.  Surrounding surface sediment contaminants included cadmium, manganese, iron, vanadium, chromium, lead, uranium, radium, thorium, and sulfates.  Reactions between contaminated low pH waters in sediments caused metal precipitation, which have been known to cause adverse health effects in humans.

Cleanup Status:

In 1990, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, now DEQ, directed Kerr-McGee to begin an environmental investigation that initiated remedial action at the former refinery.  The site is currently owned by the Multistate Trust, which funds the remediation efforts and future sale of the site.  The court-established Multistate Trust was created to own, investigate, clean up, and facilitate reuse of the property.  The DEQ is tasked with oversight to ensure that cleanup efforts are performed and completed according to state and federal standards.  This project is part of the DEQ’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), in which the DEQ will lead efforts to quantify the current and future environmental risks associated with the site.

The radiological risks associated with this site were determined to be the most urgent for remediation.  Sampling and cleanup for the radiological components of this project were overseen by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Excavated radiological wastes were disposed of offsite and completed in 2005.

The non-radiological cleanup efforts were divided into two phases so that the most imminent threats, outside of radiological hazards, were prioritized and addressed first.  Phase I began in 1996 and included the extensive cleanup efforts of five pits containing acidic hydrocarbon wastes and sludge.  The residual waste material was removed and disposed of into newly constructed disposal cells.  The North Disposal Cell (NDC) and South Disposal Cell (SDC) are the onsite locations used for disposal of non-radiological wastes.  The NDC has reached its capacity and has since been closed.  The SDC is currently topped with a temporary cap.  Surface and groundwater interim remedial measures (IRMs) were installed to prevent further contamination to Skull Creek.  Temporary trenches and drainage systems are used to collect and deliver impacted groundwater to the water treatment system.  Each day the system collects and treats approximately 18,000 gallons (~6 million gallons per year) of contaminated groundwater.  Treated waters are discharged into Skull Creek.  Routine sampling ensures discharge is within acceptable regulatory standards.  Phase I was completed in 2002 and is in continuous operation.

Phase II of the non-radiological cleanup will target the remaining waste pits, remove contaminated soils, and implement a permanent groundwater remediation system.  The remaining waste pits may still pose a risk to human and environmental health due to contaminated groundwater movement.  In effort to minimize leaching of contaminated soils into the ground and surface waters, approximately 150,000 cubic yards of material from 25 areas on the site will be removed.  Current operations are underway to excavate contaminated soils that will be disposed of at offsite landfills.  Removal of two asbestos pits will comply with National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) and Oklahoma Department of Labor rules.  The excavated areas will be back filled with clean soils and revegetated.  The SDC will be donned with a permanent cap engineered to prevent future environmental damage.  Several onsite structures and inactive underground pipelines are planned to be removed from the site.  A permanent solution to remediate contaminated groundwater is being designed.  The solution will include replacing, stabilizing, and upgrading the existing IRM and sources of contamination will be removed.  Portions of the final system are planned to be automated and operate efficiently.  The finalized design is expected in 2022, followed by its implementation.

The major goal of this remediation project is to return the site to industrial reuse and protect human and environmental health while complying with Federal and State environmental standards.

Land Use Restrictions and Regulatory Profile (click to expand)

Land Use Restrictions:

The site is being cleaned for industrial reuse.  Land use controls will be in place to allow for its appropriate future use.

Approximately 200 acres of the property are currently being used for crude oil storage and transmission by Energy Transfer and Enbridge.  The remaining acreage is composed of vacant land, IRM groundwater capture and treatment systems, and the NDC and SDC.

Shallow groundwater is not a viable drinking water source nor permitted for use.  Periodic land inspections and groundwater monitoring will confirm lasting environmental quality at the reclaimed site.

Regulatory Profile:

  • Sources of Contamination: Historical waste material from petroleum refining and thorium processing plant
  • Contaminants of Concern: Cadmium, manganese, iron, vanadium, acidic hydrocarbons, chromium, and lead
  • Media Affected: Soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater
  • Surface Water Impacted: Skull Creek and West Tributary of Skull Creek

Read Supporting Documents

Cushing Refinery – Public Meeting