Pipeline leaks 600,000 gallons of oil in Delaware

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Pipeline leaks 600,000 gallons of oil in Delaware

The Associated Press 03/03/00 6:17 PM Eastern

MILLSBORO, Del. (AP) -- A small hole in an underground pipeline leaked as much as 600,000 gallons of oil over a 12-year period, threatening the nearby Indian River, state officials said.

The leak at a Conectiv power plant could rank as one of Delaware's largest, and may take several years to clean up.

"I don't know that much about the recovery process, but it sounds like a real catastrophe," said Til Purnell, a member of Friends of Herring Creek, an environmental group near the plant in southern Delaware.

Based on the size of the hole -- about the size of an eraser on the head of a pencil -- Conectiv officials estimate the pipe had been leaking diesel oil for 8 to 12 years. The leak was discovered in December by an employee who smelled diesel fuel, said Conectiv spokeswoman Mary Rucci.

The magnitude of the problem emerged after contractors sank a well and began pumping oil from the ground Feb. 12, state officials said. By Thursday, pumps had drawn 40,000 gallons of oil from the ground at a rate of about 3,000 gallons per day.

Rucci said most of the oil remains trapped in soil on a 2.8-acre tract adjacent to the river. The utility plans to sink a steel bulkhead along a 200-foot stretch of the river to block more oil from reaching the water.

"We expect that we would be going to continue to pump the diesel fuel for several months, and that remediation efforts -- of which we're going to explore a couple of different possibilities -- could take up to several years," Rucci said.

John Mohrman of the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said he did not know if Conectiv would face prosecution or penalties.

The pipeline ran from a holding tank to an area where heavy machinery used at the site was refueled.

"There's not been any evidence of harm to aquatic life or wildlife," Rucci said. "There is an aggressive remediation effort underway and we believe the situation is manageable."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 03, 2000

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