Abandoned oil tanks cleaned up northeast of Bakersfield

Abandoned oil tanks cleaned up northeast of Bakersfield »Play Video
Three abandoned oil tanks northeast of Bakersfield are being cleaned up after a local man complained about possible hazards.

John Berry rides his bike in the area, and called the Eyewitness news tip line about his concerns.

The old oil storage tanks sit in a fairly remote spot off the dead-end of Morning Drive and near Highway 178. But, Berry worried that homes are starting to come into the area, and the leaking oil could contaminate the soil.

Experts immediately shared his concerns once they found out about the situation.

"If there's people that come up here, it could be an endangerment to them if they were to start messing around with the oil, or if someone were to get into one of the tank bottoms," said Gabe Garcia, an assistant field manager with the Bureau of Land Management.

He stood next to the abandoned tanks Wednesday morning, after finding out about the situation just the day before. After the call from the viewer, Eyewitness News called the state Division of Oil and Gas where a spokesman checked the site and reported it was actually BLM land.

The state agency called the BLM, ant that led Garcia to send out his crews. Then they immediately ordered a start to the clean up.

"We had one of the tanks with some fluid in it, so we had the operators suck out about 25 barrels of oil, and we had them net it as a temporary fix," Garcia said. The netting will help keep birds and animals out of the old oil and goo.

Garcia said Nevada Titan is the company that had run an oil operation on that site, but it's been shut down for some time. It's not clear why the tanks were partially removed.

Berry said he's ridden his bike in the area for quite a while, and the tanks used to be about 20 feet tall. Now there's about 2 feet left of the walls, and the bottoms of the tanks. Garcia said it's possible somebody took off the top of the tank walls to sell the material as scrap metal.

But, the BLM spokesman said the company that had the tanks is now responsible for making the area safe.

"Now we're going into our enforcement process to get them to clean up the rest of the mess," said Garcia. "Remove all three tank bottoms, and remove any of the contaminated soil, if there is any."

Garcia said the company will be ordered to remove soil near the tanks, and have it tested to make sure it's not contaminated. Then the company will be required to back-fill the soil.

Garcia said Nevada Titan will have 30 days to adequately clean up the site, or they will face fines.