Water Supply OK after WY Oil Spill

Monday, June 2, 2014 @ 12:06 PM gHale

A leaking pipeline spilled 600 barrels of crude oil into the Powder River Basin last week in Wyoming.

After the officials discovered the leak from the Belle Fourche Pipeline, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a burn permit for the cleanup because the spill occurred on land where other cleanup methods would not have been practical.

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Clark Bennett, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assistant field manager in Buffalo, confirmed the spill occurred May 19, and officials conducted the burn Thursday and Friday.

“It was the only way to get it out of there,” Bennett said, adding the spill encompassed both federal and state land.

State BLM spokeswoman Beverly Gorny said the site of the failed pipeline is in Johnson County approximately 40 miles southeast of Buffalo and 35 miles southwest of Gillette.

The failed steel pipeline was 6 inches in diameter.

Belle Fourche Environmental Coordinator Bob Dundas described the spill area as well contained within a drainage area that extends 2 to 2 1/2 miles from the spill source.

“It occurred in a very isolated area,” Dundas said. “We are very comfortable with our response and confident it has been adequately addressed.”

The company immediately notified regulatory agencies when it became aware of the problem, Dundas said.

“There wasn’t anybody being affected,” Bennett said. “They went through all steps required when they discovered there was a leak in the pipeline. They immediately put crews on the ground and did everything to stop the oil from going further.”

“There is zero chance of this affecting the water supply,” Gorny agreed, indicating DEQ agents assisted in the initial investigation of the incident and concurred with the company’s conclusion that the accident did not create a public health hazard.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Emergency Response Coordinator Joe Hunter verified the spilled oil went into a dry drainage.

“With crude, it tends to stay on the surface and flow downhill,” he said, adding other cleanup methods would have been impossible without tearing up a significant amount of the surrounding natural landscape. That’s why the DEQ issued a permit to use burning as a cleanup method.

Hunter said crews stopped the running oil by installing a siphon dam and a berm at the end of the drainage, about 2 miles from the Powder River.

Hunter also said the estimated volume of the spill, which equates to more than 25,000 gallons, is likely a worst-case scenario derived from calculations of the diameter of the pipe and the time that passed between when the leak probably happened.

“It’s probably less than that,” Hunter said. “But it is definitely a significant spill.”

With the major cleanup efforts complete via burning, Gorny said they will watch drainage sites to make sure they completed the job.

“The BLM inspected the site and will require that the affected areas on BLM-administered public lands are remediated in accordance with BLM standards,” she said, adding the cleanup and restoration efforts will also be subject to the inspection of the DEQ.

“I think it’s important to let people know these companies do a good job of getting these things cleaned up,” Hunter added. “When things like this happen, they lose money.”

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