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Mandan diesel fuel recovery project nears an end, after 36 years

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City of Mandan
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A milestone in the clean-up of diesel fuel underground in downtown Mandan.

The Mandan Remediation Trust will meet Wednesday, Jan. 22nd, to talk about closing the Mandan Remediation site.

Diesel fuel was first discovered in downtown Mandan in 1984, as the new Law Enforcement Center was being built.

"We started doing some assessments right after that," said North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality director David Glatt. "It started to point to the largest supplier of diesel fuel, which was Burlington Northern, pointing in their direction as causing the problem."

Glatt said it took some cajoling, but BN agreed to start recovery efforts, drilling a few wells. But he said that didn’t do the job. Glatt says that’s when the state began negotiations with BN.

What followed were court cases and arbitration.

Glatt said the railroad eventually paid $30 million, of which $24 million went toward the clean-up directly.

"We were able to get a comprehensive cleanup system in place," Glatt said.

Glatt said it took several years to get to this point, but it has been successful.

"We're at the point that there's no diesel fuel on the water table, and we're able to close down the site," Glatt said. "At this point, it is clean enough to meet the needs of downtown Mandan."

Glatt said BN turned out to be a great partner in the clean-up effort. He said these are the kind of success stories that have allowed downtown Mandan to begin to flourish again, and bring in new business.

"If you ask people in downtown Mandan about the diesel spill remediation, over half the time people respond with 'What?'" Glatt said. "They don't know anything about it. To me, that is a success."

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