Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Judge orders Exxon Mobil to clean up Vacuum Oil site

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 12:51 PM

The developer who owns the former Vacuum Oil refinery on Flint Street is getting closer to cleaning up the site.

DHD Ventures, the firm headed by Tom Masachi, owns 5 and 15 Flint Street, and is working with the state to develop a plan to address contaminated soil and ground water. The plan is nearing approval by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, says Alan Knauf, an attorney whose firm, Knauf Shaw, represents DHD Ventures.

Vacuum Oil was a predecessor of ExxonMobil, and a judge recently ordered that the large oil company either clean up 5 and 15 Flint Street, or reimburse the developer for clean-up costs. A state appeals court ruled in 2013 that ExxonMobil is responsible for the historical — and extensive — pollution at the site. DHD sought the latest order after that ruling.

"We're very happy the judge ordered Exxon to step up to the plate," Knauf says.

ExxonMobil argued that the contamination could have been caused by four 55-gallon barrels that DHD removed from the site, at the state DEC's urging. The barrels contained paint waste, Knauf says, and possibly some grease. And while it's possible that  some of the contents may have dripped out, he says, not nearly enough could have leaked to account for the petroleum contamination at the site, some of which is several feet underground.

The former Vacuum Oil refinery is part of a complex of polluted properties on Flint Street known as the Vacuum Oil Brownfield Area of Concern. A junkyard operated on one neighboring property and probably contributed to contamination in the area. But the manufacture of kerosene, lubricating oils, and gasoline at the Vacuum Oil refinery accounts for the bulk of the pollution, Knauf says.

DHD plans to eventually develop the property into a mixed-use development, which would blend residential and commercial space. The City of Rochester also owns property in the Vacuum Oil Area of Concern, and it's developing clean-up plans for the site.

This post has been corrected.

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