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Old aircraft factory raises pollution concerns in Bethany

by Brianna Bailey Modified: April 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: April 6, 2014
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The old Gulfstream Aerospace plant at Wiley Post Airport has been closed for more than a decade, but remnants of the aircraft manufacturing operation still linger in the water around the old factory.

Low-level plumes of pollution from solvents trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene have been found in the groundwater just to the west of the old aircraft plant. The chemicals are commonly used to degrease metal parts in manufacturing. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality says that the levels of pollutants from the Gulfstream plant found in Bethany’s groundwater all fall bellow federal clean water standards.

The chemicals also have found their way into the city of Bethany’s water supply, albeit in low levels that meet federal environmental guidelines. The treated city water in Bethany shows no measurable traces of the pollutants and is safe, according to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

However, the pollutants pose a potentially expensive problem for Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Airport Trust. Oklahoma City and the Airport Trust, which manages the city’s three airports, including Wiley Post, are responsible for some of the cleanup costs from the pollution. Oklahoma City owns the former Gulfstream property at Wiley Post, and the Airport Trust took control of the closed factory in 2008.

Since the groundwater pollution was discovered around the old Gulfstream site in 2008, the trust has spent $495,680 to investigate the former Gulfstream site and legal costs — and clean up of the site has not even begun.

The Airport Trust does not yet know what it will cost of clean up the water pollutants. Water testing and mapping of the plumes of contaminants is still underway. The Oklahoma City Airport Trust plans to submit a cleanup plan for the site to the state Department of Environmental Quality later this year.

Bethany claim

The city of Bethany also believes the Airport Trust owes it money for contamination to its groundwater. Bethany said in a tort claim filed with Oklahoma City that it believes it is owed more than $175,000 for contamination to its water supply. Filing a tort claim is the first step before filing a lawsuit against the city.

“The contamination is continuing to pollute the drinking water supply of Bethany and the pollution is continuing to migrate in the groundwater in the City of Bethany drinking water supply wells,” the city of Bethany said in its tort claim.

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by Brianna Bailey
Business Writer
Brianna Bailey has lived in Idaho, Germany and Southern California, but Oklahoma is her adopted home. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Univerisity of Oklahoma and has worked at several newspapers in Oklahoma and Southern...
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Timeline

•1956: Rockwell Automation, formerly known as North American Aviation, begins operation of an aircraft manufacturing plant in Bethany.

•1982: Savannah-Georgia Gulfstream Aerospace takes over the manufacturing plant.

•1988: The aircraft plant property at 4700 NW 50 is acquired by the Oklahoma City Airport Trust. Gulfstream leases the property from the Airport Trust.

•2002: Gulfstream closes the Bethany plant, laying off nearly 200 workers. At its peak, the plant had employed 575 people.

2008: Gulfstream’s lease with the Oklahoma City Airport trust expires and the trust takes possession of the site.

2009: Oklahoma City Airport Trust, Gulfstream Aerospace and Rockwell Automation enter into a voluntary agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental to investigate and clean up groundwater pollution to the west of the old Gulfstream plant after the solvents trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene are found in the water there.

•2013: The city of Bethany files a tort claim with Oklahoma City, alleging Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City Airport Trust is responsible for pollutants in Bethany’s municipal water supply and ground water. Filing a tort claim is the first step Bethany must take before filing a lawsuit against the Oklahoma City.

2014: The Airport Trust, Gulfstream and Rockwell expect to submit clean up plans for the site to the state Department of Environmental Quality for approval later this year.

The contamination is continuing to pollute the drinking water supply of Bethany and the pollution is continuing to migrate in the groundwater in the City of Bethany drinking water supply wells.”

The city of Bethany,

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