WVXU started a new feature this summer called OKI Wanna Know, where we answer your questions about things that might not be traditionally newsworthy. In this edition, a query about a piece of land in Hooven, population 534.
Eric Stein of Harrison says as he and his wife Sherry drive down Hamilton Cleves Pike, State Route 128, they've noticed something curious in the community of Hooven between the highway and the Great Miami River. "There is a large plot of land that has a lot of streets and appears to be fenced off. You can see where there were at one time operational electrical transformers, telephone poles, things like that. I'm just curious what that property was."
Eric and Sherry wondered if it was a manufacturing facility, a former military complex, or even a UFO site: Area 49.
The answer isn't quite that dramatic but it is still interesting. Jeff Moore is public affairs advisor for Chevron Environmental Management Company, which oversees activity there now.
"The site was a refinery built by Gulf Oil Company in 1931," he says. "Prior to the refinery being sited there it was a horseshoe factory there. This was a site that literally witnessed the transition from horse and carriage transportation to horseless carriage transportation."
Moore says the refinery operated until the mid-1980s, and at the peak the 195 employees processed about 45,000 barrels of crude oil a day. "They produced gasoline, diesel, heating oil, asphalt, and coke," he says.
That's coke as in a solid by-product of petroleum refining, not the soft drink or the narcotic.
In 1984, Chevron and Gulf Oil merged and a couple of years later the company closed the Hooven facility. In 1993, Chevron signed an agreement with the EPA and started cleaning up the site. "Most recently, we've been working to remove impacted soil at the surface level in some isolated spots within the north tank farm. This is an area where the big liquid storage tanks were," Moore says.
He says the completion of that work will be a milestone because it means that portion will be closer to being ready for resale. "That's really part of the vision that we have. We're preparing the site to be able to sell it to a new owner who can develop it in an appropriate way that will bring some beneficial use to the community."
Moore says in 1996, Chevron started working with a community advisory panel to plan for the future of the property. He says it will likely be zoned light industrial and commercial but there is an opportunity for recreation because part of the site sits in a flood plain for the Great Miami River.
"There are some beautiful sections of the refinery that you can't see from the highway. There's some upland forest and habitat that's now home to some whitetail deer, turkeys, more than 70 species of birds," he says.
There's been a lot of work to clean the property. "We have a groundwater treatment system where we're pumping groundwater from under the site. We're removing petroleum hydrocarbons from it. We also have a horizontal soil vapor extraction system and what that does is remove hydrocarbon vapors that are trapped in tiny little spaces within the soil," Moore says. There's also a wall built to stop hydrocarbons from moving with groundwater into the river.
The EPA wants everything cleaned up by 2048.