Refinery Clean Up Clears Way For Development

Friday, April 18th 2008, 6:56 pm
By: News On 6

There may be new life for an old environmental eyesore.  After more than a decade of planning and work, cleanup is now finished on a former refinery site in Okmulgee.  News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports the city has big plans for what they hope will become a commercial hot spot.

The change has been a long time coming.  Okmulgee leaders hope the cleanup pays off as the former industrial site transforms into a vibrant commercial center.  With a blessing by members of the Creek Nation and surrounded by local and state leaders, a new day is ushered in for an old environmental hazard.

After 11 years of planning and work, cleanup is finished at the site of a former refinery in Okmulgee.

"Taking a literally a negative piece of land and making a huge positive out of it," said Economic Development Director John Robertson.

The refinery operated for 60 years before closing in the 1980's.  Conoco Phillips, the state department of environmental quality and local leaders began working on a plan in the 90's to turn the old site into something productive and useful for the community.  But, to make that happen, a lot of work had to be done.

"Most of it is excavation, just digging it up and moving it out of the area," said Brian Heath with ConocoPhillips.

Just to give you an idea of the enormous scope of the project, cleanup crews spent about a quarter of a million man hours on the project.  And about 40,000 truckloads of dirt were removed from the site.

Economic Development Director John Robertson says now that the old site is cleaned up, it opens up opportunities for economic development.

"Now then, we can actually get serious about recruitment efforts and expansion efforts and try to get job creation," said Economic Development Director John Robertson.

Highway frontage will be a commercial/retail area.  The west side of the site will be an industrial area.

"We've got rail right down the middle of it, with about a mile long spur, so we've got tremendous opportunity out here," said Economic Development Director John Robertson.

Robertson says it's an opportunity that took a great deal of cooperation and patience, but one that will make the community better.

A hotel is already planned for the transformed site.  Economic development leaders say some industrial businesses have also expressed interest in the location.  Okmulgee is celebrating its centennial, so local leaders say this is a great way to celebrate the milestone.