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Oil-soaked soil presents physical and cultural challenges as removal efforts pick up speed

Refugio Response Join Information Center

Officials with the Refugio oil spill command center said Friday that work to remove contaminated soil is gaining speed following the arival of a crane earlier in the week. 

One challenging area for crews to excavate however is on the south side of Highway 101, along the bluff near the beach.

On-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tom Dunkelman said the terrain presents physical challenges for soil removal. He also said it is considered archeologically sensitive, as the possibility exists that Native American artifacts could exist in the area. 

"We have not observed any pottery or artifacts, but we do know that this area is very culturally sensitive and so that's the reason why we have the monitors present continuously as we dig," said Dunkelman.

As of Thursday evening, enough contaminated earth had been removed from the oil spill site to cover an entire American football field with more than a foot-and-a-half of soil. The Join Information Center said that soil will be treated and then used for fill with commercial and industrial projects, including road construction.

Soil removal could be complete within days or weeks, according to Dunkelman. He said restoring the scarred area with new soil and native plants could take months or even years.