Treoil Industries Biorefinery is a 34-acre private property in Whatcom County, Washington, that has been used since the 1980s for processing tall oil or liquid rosin from pine trees, refining biodiesel and miscellaneous industrial operations. The site is northwest of Ferndale and south of Blaine, approximately two miles east of the Strait of Georgia and four miles northwest of the Lummi Indian Reservation.
The Treoil Site has been subject to environmental compliance concerns since the late 1980s, including an oil spill in 1991 of approximately 1,000 gallons into nearby waterways via a ditch that flows through the site, drains into a creek to the west, and flows into the Strait of Georgia. Over the years, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Whatcom County and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have inspected the site and taken various enforcement and cleanup actions to prevent the release of hazardous contaminants and oil into the environment. Continued industrial activity and environmental hazards at Treoil led to renewed concerns, prompting Ecology and EPA to take recent action.
In February 2022, EPA and contractors surveyed the site to assess concerns, including deteriorating storage tanks, secondary containment and
stained soil. In June 2022, EPA evaluated the concentrations and volumes of materials in dozens of unstable tanks across the site, finding an estimated 62,000 gallons of hazardous liquid, sludge and solid substances. Contaminants include the semi-volatile compounds cresols, dimethylphenol and phenol; lead and chromium metals; and highly corrosive liquid waste, all considered hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, also known as the Superfund.
In addition to the hazardous chemicals, there are approximately 100,000 gallons of oil waste in derelict tanks and 80,000 gallons of storm water mixed with oil residue in secondary containment; it is suspected that this liquid overflowed during the rainy season. Leaking tanks also contaminated approximately 45 cubic yards of soil with oil, lead and chromium. Under the Oil Pollution Act, EPA is authorized to prevent oil from spilling into waters of the U.S.
There are also over 100 small chemical containers inside abandoned laboratory buildings requiring disposal. Chemical odors pervade the site, while there is debris, scrap metal and solid waste in various abandoned buildings. Site security is inadequate and there is evidence of vandalism, including stolen tank valves, that is exacerbating the leaks.
Due to the imminent threat of the release of hazardous contaminants and oil into the surrounding environment and the risks to public health, the EPA is authorized under law to take action. In September 2022, EPA initiated a time-critical cleanup action, and with assistance from contractors, will secure and dispose of hazardous materials, oil and oily residues. EPA expects the cleanup action to take approximately eight to ten weeks, with completion targeted by Thanksgiving 2022.
Please see the following links for additional information:
- WA Department of Ecology's Treoil Industries website, including a 2015 Compliance Order for Dangerous Waste Regulations: https://apps.ecology.wa.gov/cleanupsearch/site/950
- EPA's 2017 emergency action to prevent the release of hazardous substances and oil: https://response.epa.gov/site/site_profile.aspx?site_id=12015
- 2017 local news story: https://whatcomwatch.org/index.php/article/after-25-years-epa-cleaning-up-toxic-site-near-ferndale/