Environment

EPA adds defunct oil processing plant in Broward for ‘immediate’ cleanup action

A historical photo of Petroleum Products Corp., a former oil waste recycling company at 3130 SW 19th St. in Pembroke Park, that is currently on an EPA list of sites that need immediate cleanup attention.
A historical photo of Petroleum Products Corp., a former oil waste recycling company at 3130 SW 19th St. in Pembroke Park, that is currently on an EPA list of sites that need immediate cleanup attention. Sun Sentinel

The Petroleum Products Corporation site on three-acres of Pembroke Park has been out of commission since Richard Nixon was in the White House and the average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. was 36 cents.

But its footprint on its grounds in southern Broward at 3190 SW 19th St. has long been a concern for the county. In April, a federal judge pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to once again get the area cleaned up.

On Monday, the EPA added the former Petroleum Products location to its administration’s “Emphasis List” list of sites requiring “immediate attention and action” — a familiar distinction given the space was first placed on the EPA’s Superfund program’s National Priorities List in 1987 because of contaminated groundwater and soil from used oil and other byproducts.

Petroleum Products, an oil processing and refining facility, was in business from 1957 to 1971. Refuse from the recycled oil was buried in underground pits that eventually seeped out.

Contamination from the site affects nearby areas — which include a mobile home park and Carolina Road to the south, Pembroke Road bordering the site to the north, Park Road to the west and Southwest 31st Avenue to the east.

Pembroke Park Warehouses, a 400-unit public storage facility, Lakeside Park Estates, Pembroke Gun & Range, a parking lot, businesses, as well as public water well fields for Hallandale and Hollywood are nearby.

3190 SW 19 StPembroke Park.jpg
A Google Maps view of 3190 SW 19th St. in Pembroke Park, site of a former oil processing plant that has been targeted by the county and EPA for cleanup, 48 years after it went out of business. The location is near a shooting range, public storage facility and stores. Google Maps

“The addition of the Petroleum Products Site to the Administrator’s Emphasis List reflects EPA’s ongoing commitment to addressing Superfund sites in the southeast as quickly and safely as possible,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary Walker in a news release. “Accelerating Superfund site cleanups will greatly benefit communities by returning them to productive use while protecting human health and the environment.”

The EPA’s first interim cleanup plan was begun in 1990, according to the agency’s records. That action was meant to retire non-operating wells, close storage drainage wells discharging into the Biscayne Aquifer, conduct surveys of water wells and remove and contain the spread of contaminants.

A “vacuum-enhanced system” to recover waste oil from groundwater recovered 30,000 gallons of non-aqueous phase liquids between 1999 and 2013. Groundwater sampling and monitoring became annual activities beginning in 2003.

“Some of the stuff is like molasses; it doesn’t flow,” a project manager at the site told the Miami Herald in 1999. “Some of it is like sewing-machine oil. The thinner it is,the easier it is to remove. We might not ever be able to remove some of the thicker stuff.”

Five years earlier, in 1994, small wells were drilled into the ground above the waste-oil pit, in hopes of pumping water upward and collecting the oil floating at the top. That system failed.

A five-year EPA review was begun in 2015 to address site oil collection and monitoring, along with remedies and cleanup plans to be completed in 2020. Several areas have been fenced. But some cleanup plans are still pending, according to EPA records.

On Monday, the EPA also added two other sites demanding accelerated action. These sites include the Arsenic Mine site in Kent, New York; the San Mateo Creek Basin Legacy Uranium Mines site in Cibola and McKinley Counties in New Mexico.

At the same time, the Diamond Alkali/Passaic site in Newark, New Jersey was removed from the Emphasis List of Superfund sites — “an important milestone,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a news release.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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