Update Texas Gasoline Spill: More rain could jeopardize gas-spill cleanup

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Rain could jeopardize gas-spill cleanup

Dallas, Texas: Pipeline rupture taints E. Caddo Creek; city closes water intake at Lake Tawakoni


By Steve Miller / The Dallas Morning News

WAGNER, Texas - A gasoline cleanup effort on a tributary to one of Dallas' water supplies could be hampered if rain forecast for Tuesday comes.

"Right now, the gasoline is not running very quickly," Greg Fife, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Sunday. "But if we get the predicted rain on Tuesday, it could make it in a day without additional preventative measures."

The EPA is one of several federal, state and local agencies involved in the cleanup of East Caddo Creek, which feeds into Lake Tawakoni. About 500,000 gallons of gasoline spilled into the creek from a burst pipeline early Friday, washing over a rural area of cattle farms and fields about 35 miles northeast of Dallas.

The fuel has been contained about four miles north of the lake. It has traveled eight miles since the spill.

Mr. Fife said crews will reinforce three temporary dams erected to stem the flow of the gasoline in case the rains are heavy.

About half of the fuel has been cleaned up, Mr. Fife said.

So far, tests show that the lake is free of contamination, according to Mike Rickman, assistant director of water operations for Dallas.

The city was concerned about the presence of MTBE, a gasoline additive used to help clean the air in urban areas.

The chemical is water-soluble, and cleansing a water supply of it is expensive, Mr. Fife said.

"So far, we are looking very good," Mr. Rickman said Sunday afternoon. "We found no MTBE."

The city has shut down its water intake at the lake, which provides between 25 percent and 30 percent of Dallas' water supply.

Mr. Rickman said that tests of the lake water and its feeder creeks will continue during the cleanup, which is projected to take about two weeks.

Cleanup crews were hampered by storms Friday that combined precipitation with the gasoline and sent the mixture over creek banks, destroying dams crews had erected to contain the contamination.

Also as a result of the rains, dozens of pools of gasoline-tainted water are scattered throughout the bed of the creek.

Sunday, stationary tankers were being loaded with fuel pumped from nearby creeks and pools.

The threat to a drinking-water supply gave the cleanup a sense of urgency, Mr. Fife said.

"Any time you have something like this, everybody is going to get involved," Mr. Fife said. "It's a pretty big deal."

The owner of the pipeline, Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., is responsible for the cost of the cleanup, according to its lawyer.

The gasoline represented about 2 percent of the daily flow through the 1,400-mile-long pipeline, which extends from the Gulf Coast to Chicago.

"We pump about 535,000 barrels of product through that pipeline every day," said Curtis Craig, general counsel for Explorer. "That spill was 12,000 barrels."


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), March 13, 2000

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