In 1985, when Mandan's Law Enforcement Center was under construction, an underground fuel spill was discovered. About 3 million gallons of diesel fuel, stemming from the BNSF Railway yard’s fueling activities, contaminated the area.
BNSF initially took responsibility and immediately began the cleanup process but, after about 650,000 gallons of product was recovered, the company denied responsibility and ceased efforts.
In 2002, the state filed a lawsuit against the railroad for failing to comply with environmental laws and refusing to complete remediation work. Two years later, the city and the North Dakota Department of Health reached a $30.25 million settlement with BNSF.
Remediation began in 2004 in which pipelines were laid and about 300 wells were dug to collect the fuel, said City Administrator Jim Neubauer.
Renaissance Zone and Storefront Improvement programs were created in 2005, and would be used by developers of two $3 million mixed-use buildings on two corners of Main Street and more than 60 other projects.
A year and a half ago, about 70 of the recovery wells were capped north of Main Street, Neubauer said.
Since 2006, 139,517 gallons have been recovered. In the spring of 2018, the North Dakota Department of Health reviewed the recovery and found very little recoverable product left.
"Only a few have any measurable product, less than one-tenth of a foot, remaining," Neubauer said.
Full decommissioning of the system will likely begin this fall or in spring 2020.
From the settlement, the city established the Mandan Remediation Trust and the Mandan Supplemental Environmental Projects Trust.
The $24 million MRT paid for the system and several buildings that were purchased and razed to accommodate the system. There remains $5.8 million that will be used for the decommissioning.
The $2.5 million Supplemental Environmental Projects Trust fund has helped pay for the reconstruction of the area disturbed by the remediation, including upgrades to Heritage Park and the city's $1.5 million purchase of the former Central Market property, 504 W. Main St., and the former Thrifty White Drug property, 511 First St. N.W. The $1 million from the city's sale of the Central Market property and any remaining MRT funds will be transferred back to this fund, Neubauer said.