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Cleanup nears final stage
Many residents of the Brookhurst subdivision near Casper left in the 1980s and '90s after groundwater in the area was contaminated by chemicals from nearby industrial operations. Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency believe they are near completion of the cleanup effort that began two decades ago. (Dan Cepeda/Star-Tribune)

A two-decade effort to address groundwater contamination at the Brookhurst subdivision near Casper could enter its final stage this fall.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed certain restrictions for two neighboring industrial properties it deemed responsible for the contamination. If those proposals go through, the EPA hopes to begin removing parts of the site from the federal Superfund list later this year.

"We are not at the total end, but we are nearing completion," said EPA Remedial Project Manager Frances Costanzi. "The great majority of the work has been completed."

The area received federal Superfund designation in 1990, four years after tests revealed pollution inside drinking-water wells in the Brookhurst subdivision east of Casper. Authorities tied the contamination to a pair of groundwater plumes that originated from the nearby Kinder Morgan gas compression plant and Dow Chemical/Dowell Schlumberger oil field services facility.

In response, the EPA hooked the subdivision up to Evansville's public water system. As part of the subsequent cleanup effort, the groundwater was extracted and treated.

The plumes have receded so that they no longer extend into the Brookhurst property. A 2005 EPA review concluded the subdivision was a safe for residents.

The EPA now wants to enact restrictions to prohibit homes from ever being built on the Kinder Morgan and Dow/Schlumberger properties. Although it's unlikely the land would ever be used for housing, officials hope to add an extra layer of protection, Costanzi said.

Additional rules would restrict the use of groundwater under the properties and control the handling of excavated soils.

Both property owners have agreed to the restrictions, Costanzi said.

"They've actually been working with us to draft them and run them through their respective internal offices," she said. "Now we want to hear what the public thinks before they get implemented."

The EPA will host a meeting tonight at the Evansville Town Hall for the community to comment on the plan. The public can also comment by phone, email or letter until Sept. 21.

Unless the EPA receives feedback that causes it to reconsider its plans, officials will ask the property owners to put the restriction into effect once the public comment period ends, Costanzi said. After that, federal officials hope to begin the process of removing parts of the site from the Superfund list.

Residents move on

The pollution sparked controversy and fear among Brookhurst residents when it was discovered more than 20 years ago. Then-Gov. Mike Sullivan ordered the Wyoming National Guard to truck water into the subdivision. One resident even painted a skull-and-crossbones on the side of a home.

These days, when the neighborhood association gathers, members talk about roads rather than pollution, said Marilyn Leech, who's lived in Brookhurst since 1988.

"It never bothered me to live here," she said. "I think most of the people who live out here feel that way."

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After the contamination was discovered, many of Leech's neighbors left. But she and her husband, Ray, stayed for the subdivision's rural feel but close proximity to city comforts.

"It's got a lot of things people love about it," she said.

The Leeches don't believe the pollution has affected their health. The plumes didn't reach their land, and the neighborhood's water, they note, is still being monitored.

"I think we came out ahead on it," Marilyn Leech said, noting that their house is now on public water.

Bobbie Stoneking's home is closer to the contaminated properties, but she has also stuck around. The retiree, who's lived in the subdivision since 1980, says noise from nearby trains is a bigger concern to her.

"Once in a while, we do get a bad smell and I know it is from there," she said. "But it is not all the time and ... it's not all that often. I'm 74 and I'm not planning on moving or leaving or anything."

Reach reporter Joshua Wolfson at (307) 266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit tribtown.trib.com/JoshuaWolfson/blog to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson

Comment on the EPA plan

A public meeting to comment on the EPA's plan will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 tonight at Evansville Town Hall. Comments can be submitted by Sept. 21 to:

Frances Costanzi

Remedial Project Manager

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8

1595 Wynkoop Street (8EPR-SR)

Denver, CO 80202-1129

303-312-6571

For more information on the Superfund site, visit http://epa.gov/region8/superfund/wy/mysterybridge/

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