Investigating a Former Sump Site

The Santa Maria Valley was an active oilfield prior to residential and commercial development. Records from that time did not always indicate whether or not a sump was removed when the well was abandoned before development proceeded. ConocoPhillips works with historic records and sophisticated testing to locate sump material that may still be in place.

Soil testingThe California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) maintains records of former oil well locations. ConocoPhillips’ sump investigation program begins with a review of these DOGGR records. Historic aerial photos are reviewed by ConocoPhillips to locate the sump sites associated with these former oil wells. Then present day development maps are overlaid to pinpoint the properties that may have been built over former sumps. The area of the former sump is identified for investigation.

Soil testing professionals take samples of soil from the area under review. The material is analyzed by an independent laboratory and results are reported to ConocoPhillips. If sump material is found, the soil borings are “stepped out” until a clean boundary can be drawn. The results of these investigations are reported to the County for their review and oversight. The affected soil within the boundary becomes the subject of a remedial action plan or RAP, a plan that is developed by ConocoPhillips working with the homeowner, and approved by the County. The RAP identifies how the sump material will be addressed.

Step 1 — Soil Testing

ConocoPhillips has been working on its residential sump investigation program since 2004. We have reviewed agricultural properties, commercial land and residential neighborhoods. We have now completed the site-by-site review of residential properties where a sump associated with one of our predecessor companies may have been left behind following the conclusion of oilfield operations.

Step 2 — Contacting Residents

Our investigation has identified sumps in three Santa Maria neighborhoods. We are currently working with homeowners whose properties contain sump material to determine the best solution at each site. There are some homes where sump material is in the yard area only and doesn’t extend under the house. These yards can be cleaned without removing the homes. In some cases, the sump may be under the house. ConocoPhillips may purchase these homes, remove them, excavate the affected soil and then make the clean lots available for construction of new homes.

ExcavationAs you can imagine, homeowners have different needs and preferences. What works for one resident where sump material needs to be removed may not be the best solution or timing for another. We are committed to working with each homeowner to find the resolution that best suits individual needs. When home removal is indicated, it can take months to work out details before ConocoPhillips purchases a home and proceeds to remediation.

Step 3 — Moving into Remediation

Once we have worked out the details of home purchase, the next step is to submit a Remedial Action Plan – also known as a RAP – to the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health for review and approval. After the County FPD approves our plan, we apply for needed permits and approvals from the City of Santa Maria and the Air Pollution Control District. We can proceed with yard cleanup and/or home and soil removal after we receive all needed approvals.

ExcavationIf we are removing a home, ConocoPhillips notifies the neighborhood about its plans and timing for house removal. Next, Habitat for Humanity removes all usable fixtures and equipment prior to demolition. Everything from switch plate covers to lighting fixtures and cabinetry can be donated for reuse.

Actual demolition is a short process and immediate cleanup follows. We emphasize safety, and we make every effort to control dust, noise and neighborhood disturbance during the process. We conduct sound, vibration and air monitoring during both demolition and the remediation work that follows.

We started our Santa Maria project with a list of 73 sumps to be investigated. To date, we have conducted soil testing and have investigated 67 of the original 73 on our list. We have six sumps yet to investigate. Of the sumps investigated, 63 have been remediated by ConocoPhillips or found to be previously removed.

Neighborhood work is our top priority, and everyone working on our project team appreciates the cooperation from residents that has allowed us to move forward. Residential work will continue throughout 2013, with an anticipated finish in 2014. We will then proceed to commercial and agricultural sump areas, with program completion expected in 2015.

Throughout the house-removal process, we keep neighbors informed about our remediation plans, including hours of operation and truck routes. On-site staff strives to be courteous and efficient. Once the soil removal and backfill is complete, we plant grass and maintain the empty lot as an attractive green space for the neighborhood until it is sold for new home construction.

Step 4 — Final Actions

After remediation activities are concluded at a property, we submit all final paperwork to the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health. The county reviews the reports we provide and, as a final step, issues a “No Further Action” or “NFA” letter. An NFA letter is a homeowner’s document that remains with the property and indicates sump material has been addressed and requires no further action. If you did not have oil-sump material on your property, you will not receive an NFA. These documents are only used to address sites where an investigation found sump material.

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