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Moving dirt

In this July 2011 file photo, a worker is moving and compressing dirt in the area that became the West Haymarket development. Contractors removed contaminated soil and added at least 3 feet of clean soil before any construction took place.

Efforts to clean up diesel fuel from what was once a large railyard and is now the West Haymarket may soon be ending. 

The group overseeing the West Haymarket development approved a contract last week for pumping the petroleum product from wells near the Canopy Lofts over the next six months.

Under the $18,000 contract, Kennedy/Jenks Consultants will be accelerating the pumping schedule, an operation that city compliance administrator Frank Uhlarik hopes will substantially reduce the petroleum product and may clean it out entirely. 

"Improving the suck. That's what we are trying to do," he told the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency board. 

The goal is to be able to close the remediation project after that six-month contract, either because all the petroleum is gone, or because the state Department of Environmental Quality decides the city has done as much as it can to remove the diesel fuel, Uhlarik said.

"That's the goal. ... That's my hope," he told the JPA board.

The worst-case scenario would be that there is a little bit of product left, and the state will consider closure at that point, he said.

The state can allow remediation efforts to end if the remaining product causes no harm to human health.

Since the 1980s, BNSF Railway had been monitoring and slowly extracting diesel from the site, where there was once a fueling station. 

More than 11,000 gallons of diesel fuel was removed before the West Haymarket project began, according to DEQ records. 

That diesel fuel cleanup work became the responsibility of the West Haymarket JPA. Since 2011, the JPA has spent more than $1.7 million on the petroleum cleanup and monitoring efforts, including approximately $809,500 in federal funds.

First, contractors dug up a city block, going 16 feet deep, and hauled away about 14,000 cubic yards of dirt to remove the diesel plume. Then they brought in clean soil to replace it. 

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That work paved the way for the new development and parking garages near Pinnacle Bank Arena.

But the JPA continued to find diesel fuel under the ground near that site, the current day Canopy Lofts, and has been monitoring the situation through six wells and pumping petroleum product from three of those wells.

In March, the JPA contracted with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to collect additional data and look at the best way to clean up the rest of the petroleum product.

"We felt we weren't getting the recovery we'd like to see," Uhlarik said. The new contract is the result of that research, he said. 

Based on testing at the monitoring wells, there has been significant improvement, according to a DEQ spokesperson.

The level of product in the three wells was 6 inches or less in March, according to the most-recent report available. 

The continued monitoring is part of DEQ requirements to limit risk. Other protections include prohibiting basements in the area and prohibiting use of groundwater.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.



Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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