A crude oil spill was discovered in Mooringsport of Caddo Parish in Louisiana. The spill was due to a leak in an 65-year-old pipeline owned by Sunoco Logistics Partners, L.P. of Philadelphia. The line extends 1,000 miles from Longview, TX to refiners in Ohio and Michigan. According to Jeff Shields, Sunoco spokesperson, the line is routinely tested and maintained. This is the second major spill in less than a year; Sunoco had another spill in Cincinnati, OH in March 2014. It was on the same pipeline this incident occurred on.
According to Mr. Bill Rhotonberry, EPA’s federal on-scene coordinator, “I would call it a significant size spill.” The estimate of 4,000 barrels – 168,000 gallons – enough to fill six rail-tank cars came within 50 feet of Caddo Lake, said Jean Kelly, Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality. Air monitors have been activated in nearby forestry as readings of volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) are watched to ensure health safety. The crude has a pungent stench. EPA officials are monitoring air quality independent of Sunoco Logistics. Sunoco said, the pipeline would be shut down indefinitely, even though repairs can be done in a matter of days, based on past leaks. “The only risk of VOCs is in the immediate area of the oil,” Rhotenberry said.
Control operators for Sunoco noticed a drop in pressure on the line and “shut it down within 20 minutes,” said Jeff Shields. Contractors searched four hours to find the leak both from air and by foot until it was found in Mooringsport in Caddo Parish. The crew implemented measures to prevent oil from reaching the lake. “That was a priority,” explained Shields. The area of the spill dead ends at Caddo Lake, and it is sparsely populated. Evacuations were not issued, but three families decided to leave their homes. Sunoco has stepped up to pay these families’ expenses due to moving. About 250 contractors mop up the spilled crude. Dressed in fire retardant clothing, hard hats, safety goggles and respirators they take on the time-consuming task of remediating 4,000 barrels of crude. Containment booms guard the lake, as boat patrols watch for signs of a sheen. Mr. Shields estimated about 1,900 barrels of the black gold had been removed from the bayou, as of Saturday.
No timelines for the remediation were offered by Shields or Rhotenberry, except it will be months. Cincinnati’s spill clean-up has not been completed from March 2014. Jeffery Meyers of the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office said, “After we get all the black up we’ll be looking for the sheen.” Meyers continued after the majority of the oil is removed, then the focus turns to remediation and restoration. The process is time consuming moving forward will be to locate the pockets of residual oil that can become trapped in soil and even in crawfish holes. “Sunoco understands its obligations well and understands it is liable for the costs,” Shields said. The efforts of the Louisiana Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Louisiana Dept. of Wild Life and Fisheries, the oil spill coordinator’s office and the Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality are keeping an eye on the area long term.
An investigation by the U.S. Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, into how the leak occurred and if any action will be taken against Sunoco will be completed. The authority regulates pipeline spills. “Age is not a main determinant in pipeline integrity,” Shields explained. Activists fighting Sunoco’s repurposing project called the Mariner East took notice of the oil spill in Caddo Parish. The spill killed 66 animals, including 30 fish and 10 reptiles in the area. Trees, vegetation and wildlife in a bayou nearby will be the baseline so spill effects can be assessed. This stuff kind of “scares people” living by these old pipelines. (Mr.Tom Casey, director of the Chester County Community Coalition)
By Oliver L. Malcom, Jr.