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Buried tanker car likely to be removed next week

City officials say it probably will be next week before the City of Lawton can remove an oil tanker car from the site of its new public safety facility.

The site between Railroad Street and Larrance, immediately south of East Gore Boulevard and east of the downtown area, was once an industrial area and a former railroad yard, city officials said earlier this week as they explained a buried tanker car that contains diesel fuel. City administrators said they knew an underground structure was there, but were surprised this week to discover that what they thought was an oil tank was a much larger rail tanker car that they estimated dates to the 1930s.

City Engineer George Hennessee said the city's plan was to remove the diesel by pumping it out of the rail car, then arranging with a crane service to lift the empty structure out of the ground. Those plans were made for Wednesday, because a crane already was scheduled to be in Lawton for another project.

But, Hennessee said Wednesday that didn't happen because the testing that the city needed in hand before it could remove the diesel did not come on Tuesday as expected. The tanker car cannot be taken out of the ground until the diesel is removed.

"We had taken a sample of material to have it tested, to determine the flash point," Hennessee said, explaining the flash point test is necessary to determine what type of pump will be used to remove the diesel.

A substance with a high flash point is very volatile, while a lower-grade material would need a different type of pump, he said, adding that he didn't anticipate a high flash point because the substance is a petroleum product.

"It's just a standard," he said, of the flash point test. "We don't want to take a risk."

City officials said Wednesday that they hoped to have the test results that day, but conceded the Thanksgiving holiday still would delay removal of the diesel. Hennessee said he anticipates contracting with a crane service to remove the tanker car early next week. He wasn't certain Wednesday about the effects that new removal date would have on the total cost of the removal project, which the City of Lawton is absorbing rather than letting the public safety facility contractor do it. Lawton officials had wanted to remove the tanker car Wednesday because the crane already was in town, meaning a lesser cost for the City of Lawton. A new date could mean a higher cost for the crane service.

"That has yet to be determined," Hennessee said.

Hennessee said plans to remove the tanker car won't affect the construction time line for FlintCo., the Tulsa construction firm that was awarded the $33.7 million project to build the public safety facility. That contract was awarded by the City Council in August and a notice to proceed was issued by the city in early October.

The Lawton Constitution

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