Railroad Property Project Updates

The Ashland Railroad Yard is a vacant 20-acre parcel owned by Union Pacific near downtown. In February 2017, DEQ approved Union Pacific Railroad’s plan to begin cleanup at the site to remove most of the contamination and enable Union Pacific to sell all, or a portion, of the property if it chose to. The bulk of the work, which would have involved excavating about 18,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil, was supposed to begin in the summer of 2018.

Union Pacific is part of DEQ’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. Under the program, DEQ provides oversight to property owners and others wishing to investigate and clean up hazardous substance sites in a voluntary, cooperative manner.

Recent Developments

Since DEQ approved the cleanup plan, a number of things have changed.
In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency updated its standards for benzo-a-pyrene, which is one of the main contaminants in the soil at the Ashland Railroad Yard. Benzo-a-pyrene is one of a number of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a type of chemical that is found in coal and petroleum products and can be formed when coal, oil or gas are burned. Other contaminants in the soil on the site include lead, arsenic and a type of thick fuel commonly called Bunker C.
Union Pacific notified DEQ in December 2017 that it planned to withdraw its cleanup plan in light of the new standards. DEQ agreed that the updated standards would change the requirement for cleanup for benzo-a-pyrene contamination. Under the new standards, there are no unacceptable site risks for benzo-a-pyrene that would require cleanup, assuming that the site remains a single 20-acre property. However, DEQ believes that there may be unacceptable site risks from other site contaminants, including lead, arsenic, and Bunker C.
Next Steps

Because Union Pacific is withdrawing the 2016 cleanup plan, DEQ will not decide on final cleanup requirements for the Ashland railyard until after Union Pacific takes additional soil and groundwater samples and re-evaluates environmental risks using the updated standards and considering potential future uses of the property.
DEQ will solicit public comments before approving a cleanup plan and issuing a No Further Action Determination for the railyard.
DEQ understands that Union Pacific will submit a work plan to collect and evaluate additional soil and groundwater information later in 2018. DEQ will inform the local community and key stakeholders about the details of the approved work plan before sample collection begins.
DEQ expects that any decisions about final cleanup of the Ashland railyard will not occur before 2019.

History of the Site

The railroad yard was operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company between 1887 and 1986 as a locomotive fueling, maintenance, and railcar repair facility near downtown Ashland. Most buildings were removed from the yard in the 1980s. A small portion of the railroad yard is currently leased to the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad and is used on occasion for switching and storing railcars.
Environmental investigations in the 1990s revealed that soil and groundwater in portions of the railroad yard are contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, lead and arsenic. Contaminant levels in some areas of the property are higher than DEQ’s cleanup standards for human health if the property were to be developed for residential or commercial uses.
In 2006, Union Pacific proposed to excavate about 35,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil to meet DEQ’s criteria for unrestricted residential use. DEQ did not approve the 2006 plan due to concerns raised by many Ashland residents about the use of trucks to haul contaminated soil on city streets. In 2013, Union Pacific submitted a new cleanup plan that called for excavating about 18,700 cubic yards of soil and using railcars to haul the contaminated soil to an approved landfill. Union Pacific delayed implementation of its cleanup plan until Ashland modified a deed restriction on the property, which it did in 2016.

Railroad Clean Up Timeline

December 21, 2017
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently revised certain toxicity parameters for benzo(a)pyrene, which is the primary contaminant at the Ashland rail yard.  EPA has determined that this compound is less toxic than previously thought. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) routinely incorporates EPA updates into its risk assessment process once published by EPA.
Consequently, Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) is requesting DEQ re-evaluate the contaminant risks of the railroad property and UPRR has withdrawn the approved 2016 remediation plan. Click here to read the letter from UPRR to DEQ.
DEQ will conduct its review in January 2018 and subsequently provide an update to the City of Ashland. 

December 4, 2017
Click here to read the letter sent to UPRR from DEQ.

September 18, 2017
UPRR is finalizing the remediation bid documents.  Award of the remediation contract and installation of the rail spur is expected to occur in early fall.

June, 6, 2017
UPRR is still working through some logistics with CORP.  Construction and installation of the rail spur will not begin until early fall. 

February 23, 1017
Click here to read the approval for cleanup of the Ashland railroad property.   Refer to page 5 and scroll to #6 Implementation of Cleanup Plan.

December 27, 2016
DEQ will host a public meeting on Thursday, January 19, 2017 in the Community Center at 59 Winburn Way at 7:30 p.m.  Representatives from DEQ and Union Pacific will be at the meeting to share information and to answer questions about the clean up of the railroad property. Click to read the letter and fact sheet.  For more information visit the DEQ UPRR webpage.

July 7, 2016
UPRR will submit a revised remedial action plan to DEQ for approval.  Once the revised plan is approved, UPRR will develop a timeline to complete the project.  The Remedial Action Plan is the document that details how the cleanup project will be implemented and the actions that will be taken to meet DEQ requirements. 

June 14, 2016
The Planning Commission approved a revision to the deed restriction that clarifies the type of clean up for consistency with DEQ standards so that: 1) before the 20-acre site can be divided into smaller lots or developed, the initial cleanup of the 20-acre site would be to the residential standard and 2) future subdivided lots would have to be cleaned up to the standard DEQ requires for the proposed use of the individual lots: the “occupation” standard for retail, office, or light industrial uses; the residential standard for ground level housing.

June 7, 2016
The City of Ashland has requested an amendment to a deed restriction on the railroad property. The proposed amendment clarifies the timing and type of clean up for consistency with DEQ standards.  The Ashland Planning Commission will review this proposed amendment at their meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center at 1175 East Main Street. Click here to view the Planning Action. To read more about this topic click here.

April 5, 2016
This item will be on the agenda for the City Council meeting on April 5, 2016.  Click here to read the information.

January 21, 2016
On January 5, the City Council directed staff to prepare, file and seek approval of an application for an amendment to the planning action that created the original deed language.  The new deed will reference applicable DEQ standards, such as development of individual parcels must be remediated in conformance with the DEQ risk standards for the actual uses of the parcels.
Staff is now working with DEQ to finalize the deed language and with UPRR to ensure the new deed language meets their concerns.  The Planning Commission will likely review the amendment in early March.  The City and UPRR will work towards a mutually acceptable agreement that details the City’s expectations of UPRR.  To read the staff report on this topic click here and to read the minutes from the January 5 City Council meeting click here.

January 5, 2016
At the study session in October, council asked staff to prepare some options on modifying the existing deed restriction to be compatible with DEQ remediation restrictions.  This item is on the agenda for January 5, 2016.

October 6, 2015
UPRR and DEQ made a presentation to the City Council at the council meeting on October 6. To read the minutes click here.  To view the video click here.

September 21, 2015
Posted below is a PDF titled Answers to Questions.  These are responses from DEQ to questions posed by the City.

August 18, 2015
The response letter from DEQ to the City of Ashland is posted below.

August 17, 2015
At the request of the City Council at their August 4 meeting the City sent a letter to DEQ expressing the City's concerns regarding the use of trucks for soil removal for the proposed fuel vault.  The letter is posted below.

To view the August 4 City Council meeting click here.  The discussion occurs about 44 minutes into the video for about 30 minutes and again at 173 minutes into the meeting.

Updates will be posted to this page as more information is available from both UPRR and DEQ.

Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) has informed the City of their plan to remove an underground fuel storage bunker from their property and about 7,500 cubic feet of dirt that surrounds it; an area covering about two acres.  Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) considers this low-risk contaminated soil; contaminated primarily with petroleum and petroleum byproducts.

They expect the project to take five weeks, working Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and anticipate approximately 25 trucks per day.  Existing soil will be removed and replaced with clean fill.  The City has required that all truck loads be covered and truck wheels  be washed before the trucks leave the site.  The trucks will enter and leave the property via Clear Creek Drive, Oak Street and Eagle Mill Road.

The City has required erosion control, dust control and fire prevention measures to be in place for the duration of the project.  In addition, the City has required UPRR set aside funds for potential street repairs.

When the City is informed of the date the project will begin, letters about the project will be mailed to all residences and businesses in the area located in the shaded area of this map.
Many details are still being worked out between UPRR and DEQ.  Updated information will be posted on the City website as more information becomes available from UPRR.

Filetype Description
120417 LETTER FROM DEQ TO UPRR.PDF (155.6kb)
120717 LETTER FROM UPRR TO DEQ.PDF (483.3kb)
12 30 16 ASHLANDRAILYARDSTAFFMEMO12302016.PDF (5333.4kb)
Letters will be mailed to all residences and households withi the shaded area about the UPRR project.
10 14 15 UPDATED BRIEF HISTORY.PDF (116.6kb)
Scroll to the fifth page and refer to #9.
AITKEN RE RR CLEANUP 081115.PDF (620.5kb)
8 13 15 DEQ RESPONSE TO MAYOR.PDF (812.3kb)

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