Oil cleanup project under way at Morro Bay terminal


Work to clean up several oil spills at Chevron’s defunct Estero marine terminal near Morro Bay is under way.

Crews have been installing sheet pile — interlocking steel retaining walls — and doing other work in preparation for removing contaminated soil from the site. The contaminated dirt will be shipped to a hazardous materials landfill in Kern County, said Jeff Oliveira, a San Luis Obispo County environmental specialist.

Remediation work began last year and is expected to take several years to complete, Oliveira said. Work is complicated by the fact that pollution has spread into wetlands adjacent to Toro Creek.

Local Chevron officials could not be reached for comment.

The 2,200-acre terminal, located between Morro Bay and Cayucos, operated from 1929 to 1999. Large tankers would anchor just past the surf line to load crude oil from storage tanks dotting the hillside above the terminal. An overland pipeline to refineries in the Los Angeles area was completed in 1999, eliminating the need for the terminal.

Over the years, several leaks and spills occurred. The contamination is found in three plumes east of Highway 1.

An estimated 8,100 cubic yards of contaminated material must be removed. Hundreds of truck trips will be required to remove the oily dirt.

The cleanup has been in the works since 2002 when Chevron reached an agreement with state water officials as part of its plans to decommission the site. Future uses of the terminal property are undetermined, Oliveira said.