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Salt Lake residents organize to monitor oil cleanup


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SALT LAKE CITY -- The cleanup of the oil spill on Salt Lake City's east bench is moving forward. Now the neighbors of Red Butte Creek are organizing to keep the heat on Chevron.

The oil spill is so big and so long-term it's beginning to create its own bureaucracy. Water sampling is now settling into a twice-a-week routine at 15 locations, by teams representing several government agencies and Chevron.

"It's just a good way so that everybody is comfortable with the sample and the sample results," says Dave Spence, environmental health director for the Davis County Health Department.

Wednesday, federal, state and county agencies created a unified command team, which has into Chevron offices to coordinate the cleanup. Affected neighbors are creating their own organization, with multiple teams.

"[It's] to make sure Chevron cleans up and mitigates the stream to its previous condition," says Peter G. Hayes, a Salt Lake City resident who lives near Red Butte Creek.

One of the neighbors most affected is surprisingly supportive of Chevron.

"I tell you, they really bent over backwards," says Marina Riedel.

Riedel's backyard ponds lost 85 trout to the oil last weekend, and two baby ducks. She points to black, oily rocks and says the toughest cleanup work still lies ahead; but Chevron's response so far she says is remarkable.

"The parts of our yard that are ponds, that could be closed off from the river flow, are where they focused their energy and cleaning up the oil -- and they did an outstanding job," Riedel says. "I would give them an ‘A'."

"[In] my 180 feet of creek there has not been one single cleanup worker there at all," Hayes says. "But frankly, the only way to do this correctly is to work from the top down."

Hayes is upset with rosy news reports minimizing the spill and praising the cleanup. He says a citizen group will ensure a thorough cleanup.

"If we grease the slide for Chevron to get out of here before they've done, what they promised to do, then the need to organize will be obvious," Hayes says.

Hayes and Riedel agree a citizens group will work best if it remains positive and cooperative with Chevron. But that's a difficult emotional stance for many, who feel hurt, angry and abused by the spill.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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