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Clean-Ups For Abandoned And Contaminated Sites Could See Long-Term Funding

Several orphan sites listed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality online page
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Factories and dry cleaners used to dump contaminated waste wherever was convenient. Over the past thirty years, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has identified the locations many of these contaminated sites, also known as orphan sites, but the polluting companies are no longer around to pay to clean them up.

A new bill aims to provide long-term funding to pay for those efforts. If passed, the program would be funded by revenue generated through a small fuel tax and a fee on certain businesses. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern said cleaning the sites can be done in a number of ways. 

"Some of it is taking out the soils and farming the soils to the point where they’re no longer toxic because the sun will do a lot of bleaching of the toxic materials out of the soils, so they keep turning them over and exposing a certain amount of them to the sun at one time. You put barriers up that will no longer allow it move any further if you can’t dig deep enough or get it out of the ground," he said. "There’s several ways of doing this, but, yes, basically, you try to neutralize the ground soils."

According to the DEQ, there are orphan sites located in Evanston, Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, and elsewhere. Lawmakers will consider the bill in a couple of weeks.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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