After oil from the Oil Re-Refining Co., based in Portland, became contaminated with a toxic material three years ago causing a major financial impact on the company, Industrial Oil, Inc., the Klamath Falls plant, is shifting how it tests oil for toxic materials as a precaution.
The company invites the public to submit comments until Nov. 16 about the cleanup effort, after which it can begin working toward eliminating used oil contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The impact of a contamination of used oil on the local plant has been staggering, according to ORRCO environmental, health and safety manager Logan Choisnet.
“Because we had these contaminations, we’re very fearful,” Choisnet said.
Ten jobs at the Klamath plant have been lost and 21 million gallons of used oil sold by the company as a whole has been reduced to about 6 million gallons, Choisnet said.
“A lot of that 21 million (gallons) was wiped right out of Klamath Falls,” Choisnet said. “It takes money right out of our pocket. Going from a 24/7 operation to 40 hours a week — there’s big financial impact there. It has greatly affected our company. Our ability to process has gone down.”
Between January and February 2010, the local ORRCO plant collected oil from a used oil generator with unknowingly high levels of PCBs, according to a court document obtained by the Herald and News.
The contaminated oil spread to more than 59,000 gallons of oil at Industrial Oil, Inc., 1291 Laverne Ave. The contamination has been contained, according to Choisnet, who also emphasized it hasn’t affected the environment.
“It becomes a disease and it spreads rather quickly,” Choisnet said of the PCB material when it contaminates used oil. “It doesn’t take very long for it to blow out of proportion.”
Choisnet said the contamination stems from a generator of recycled oil in Utah where ORRCO collected approximately 300 gallons of used oil. Choisnet said the company believed the oil contained less than two parts per million of PCBs.
“There was never any reason to believe that they had (high levels of) PCBs,” Choisnet said.
A sample from the collected oil was later found to contain a concentration of 20,800 parts per million, according to the document. The sample was taken after the oil had been mixed with other used oil, ultimately contaminating more than 59,000 gallons of oil at Oil Industries in Klamath Falls alone.
In order to comply with EPA standards, ORRCO must pay for incineration at a facility in Utah for more than 59,000 gallons of oil at $4.84 per gallon or about $286,000. If the oil isn’t fully eliminated by Oct. 2016, the company must also pay a $450,000 fee.
ORRCO will send the contaminated oil by rail to Utah for incineration, which Choisnet said shouldn’t pose a threat to the environment.
“It’s a balancing act of trying to regrow the company and fix the problem at the same time,” Choisnet said.