Wyoming: Former employee accuses Amoco of withholding information about pollution at refinery

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Former employee accuses Amoco of withholding information about pollution at refinery

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A former BP Amoco employee said the company has consistently neglected to tell state officials about toxic substances that could be lurking at a refinery site.

Bob Breuer, who now works for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said that BP Amoco's silence prompted him to disclose that the refinery handled the potentially cancer-causing fuel additive MTBE.

"There were hundreds of millions of gallons of MTBE blend shipped from that refinery," he said. "I don't know how or why they ... didn't disclose it."

Recent tests found high concentrations of the chemical at the former refinery, which is the focus of a massive cleanup.

Breuer said he often wonders whether BP Amoco would not be addressing some issues at all were it not for pressure from the state.

BP Amoco spokesman Bill Stephens said he hasn't "walked a mile in Breuer's shoes," but is sorry that a former employee feels that way.

The company may have been cautious working with two regulatory agencies and while facing a lawsuit in federal court, but he maintained that BP Amoco has been "extremely forthcoming."

"We feel like it's our duty to do that," he said.

Breuer said the evidence shows otherwise, and the state often has had to be a watchdog when it comes to the Casper refinery.

A refinery facility that used massive amounts of lead to filter fuels also was not included in the site investigation until he stepped forward, he said.

"To this day, I don't know when or whether the consultant was going to incorporate that into the investigation," he said. "I will walk right to the spot and kick the dirt around if that's what it takes to get that site investigated."

Two or three state officials have often been left to uncover what Amoco did not reveal to about 20 consultants and during open access to company records, he said.

"It's just confusing how some things are not fully accounted for in the investigation," he said.

Vickie Meredith, the state's project leader for the refinery cleanup, said she has "experienced some frustration, in that it seems that we have to dig a lot of the information up on our own."

"It would be nice if Amoco would come up with this information without having to ask for it," she said.

However, she said, consultants have a lot of information to collect and understand without the benefit of institutional knowledge about the site.

"I feel like there's been a vast improvement in our relationship over the last year. And I want it to continue to improve."

Stephens agreed, saying the community can either choose to look down on its "fathers and grandfathers" for polluting the site, "or you can look at it from the standpoint that they did their job and abided by the rules of the day, using the technology of the day."

"We're not trying to hide anything here," he continued. "We want to figure out what (pollution) we have and find the best way to address that."

Breuer said he supports the Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board and wants to see the community reach a cleanup agreement based on "good science and full disclosure."

But that must include a commitment, on the part of both the state and BP Amoco, to fully investigate all pollution at the refinery, he said.

"I just want to make sure no one leaves common sense behind about leaving contamination in the ground without knowing what is there," he said.


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), March 13, 2000

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