A massive cleanup effort is underway after a corroded pipeline ruptured near New Orleans last month, spilling more than 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel and killing thousands of fish, birds and other animals.
The Dec. 27 spill had not been publicly reported, according to documents from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The pipeline operator was accused of delaying necessary repairs to a 22-foot section of pipeline at the spill site.
About 315,000 gallons of diesel-contaminated water have since been collected from two man-made ponds near a dike in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. Some 2,300 fish and more than 100 other animals, including snakes, birds, eels and crabs, have been killed, said Robert “Trey” Iles, spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Nearly 130 other animals, including 72 alligators, 23 birds, 20 snakes and 12 turtles, were captured for rehabilitation, he added.
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An October 2020 inspection showed the compromised pipe had lost 75% of its metal where the corrosion was most severe, damage that would have required immediate repairs, according to federal records. But repairs were delayed after a second inspection found the corrosion did not require immediate attention.
Bill Caram, a pipeline safety advocate with the Pipeline Safety Trust, said it was “infuriating” that the pipeline would continue to operate for more than a year after the 2020 inspection.
Diesel is a highly toxic petroleum product that can kill fish and plants that come in direct contact with it, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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The pipeline is operated by Collins Pipeline, which owns six oil refineries nationwide, including one in the parish of St. Bernard. The company spent $ 500,000 to repair the line and resumed use on Jan. 8, said Michael Karlovich, vice president of PBF Energy Inc., owner of Collins Pipeline.
The company is monitoring salvage operations and an environmental damage assessment is underway, he said.
The Louisiana oil spill follows an oil spill last October in California that spilled 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. Amplify Energy Corp. was indicted in December on a misdemeanor charge after prosecutors accused the Houston-based oil company of being negligent and letting the oil flow for hours despite alarms alerting workers to the rupture of the pipeline.
Contribution: The Associated Press