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If you have driven along Old Highway 81 or on days when the wind is strong, you have likely smelled a strong odor.

Since 2014, a cleanup effort has been underway at the old Meridian refinery, with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Phillips 66 Company (Phillips 66) combining their efforts.

According to DEQ, the old refinery takes up around 420 acres, mostly between 13th Street (Old 81) and Highway 81, with Refinery Road running through it. It operated from the 1920s until 1983, with various owners. 

The property is in DEQ’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). Stephens County, DEQ and Phillips 66 are working together for the cleanup and reuse of the former refinery property.

Erin Hatfield, DEQ media relations, said the smell was coming from the material being hauled out of the Meridian refinery.

“They are continuing to load out those algae ponds, which means they are taking that treated waste out and hauling it to the landfill,” Hatfield said. “Different ponds can have different smells, and some, unfortunately, are worse than others. They are actively doing air quality motioning for public safety.”

Melissa Ory, Phillips 66 media representative, said they were getting material out as it is treated.

“Phillips 66 recently completed mixing activities related to the cleanup of a portion of the former ponds at the former Duncan Refinery site,” she said in an email. “The pond material has been mixed with Portland cement to stabilize it for transport to an off-site landfill. The load-out and transport of pond material during daylight hours began in late September, and completion is expected by the end of the year.”

Ory said Phillips 66 was following the DEQ-approved odor mitigation plan, which will remain in place during the load-out phase.

“The analysis of sampling data indicates that concentrations in the air are well below the limits established by regulatory agencies,” she wrote.

Hatfield said nothing has tipped the scales into the dangerous category.

“If something major were to happen that could impact public health, we would certainly let people know,” she said. “As they are hauling out this material, there will be some smells, but the positive is they are removing this material. It will be gone, and as soon as they finish this project, we are that much closer to getting the site cleaned up.”

The Duncan Banner has received several calls about the smell, and some residents said they were getting sick because of it.

“Certainly, if people are worried about their health, they would need to contact their physician,” Hatfield said.

For any questions or concerns, call Phillips 66 at 800-633-7922 or 786-6520.

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