MS - December Oil Spill Calculated to be 320,000 Gallons, Computer Did Not Detect Covington County Leak : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Title: Estimates show oil spill larger Leak into Leaf River calculated to be 320,000 gallons


By Bruce Reid Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer March 21, 2000

HOT COFFEE  A December oil spill here, the largest in the state in a decade, was more than four times larger than originally estimated.

The latest estimates put the spill at about 320,000 gallons. The new figure, based on more precise calculations, was released Monday during a tour of the spill site and the Leaf River, which was temporarily fouled by the crude oil.

Genesis Crude Oil L.P. of Houston, Texas, the company that operates the pipeline, had said the leak involved about 70,000 gallons.

While Genesis is still mopping up small amounts of oil around the spill site, there was no evidence of oil remaining in the river Monday.

Fourth District U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows toured the spill site and a portion of the river near the Covington County hamlet of Hot Coffee. The Bassfield Democrat took the tour at the suggestion of his brother, Ricky, and other locals, who wondered whether fish in the river were safe to eat.

State and federal environmental officials say they have no evidence Leaf River fish are unsafe to eat.

Genesis has spent $17 million so far on the cleanup. The company continues to spend $35,000 a day. The company has insurance for the spill.

Genesis officials said they determined salt, possibly along with hydrogen sulfide, corroded the 8-inch pipeline, causing a 1/4-inch hole through which the oil leaked.

After the tour, Shows said he was "generally pleased" with the cleanup. He sits on a transportation subcommittee that oversees pipeline safety.

"It sounds like to me that the state has done what it needs to do and the company is doing what it needs to do," Shows said. State and federal authorities have not decided whether to fine the company for the spill.

The oil leaked from the pipeline near Mississippi 28 for several days before the spill was spotted by a trucker passing over the U.S. 84 bridge east of Collins. Oil fouled more than 20 miles of the river.

Genesis has a computer system in Houston to detect leaks over the company's 1,200 miles of pipelines. The system did not detect the Covington County leak.

Genesis president Mark Gorman said the rolling terrain in the area, which causes variable pressure in the pipeline under normal conditions, masked the spill. The pipeline segment in question, at the Summerland wellfield, operates under low pressure normally.

"We just found that in this low pressure situation, it's hard to monitor," Gorman said. A 30-mile segment of the pipeline remains shut down as the company investigation continues.

More than 500 people responded to the spill at the height of the cleanup during the Christmas holidays. The cleanup crew, which will remain until about August, now consists of about 30 people.

"We patrol the river two or three times a week," said Barry Davis, Genesis' pipeline operations chief.

Some residents still are reporting small spots of oil in the river and even abnormalities on fish.

Phil Bass, pollution-control chief for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said no one has linked any fish ailments to the spill. He said he was not surprised by such reports, because a small percentage of fish normally have lesions and other conditions.

Nine ducks, one turtle and one beaver were all found dead after the spill. No fish kills were reported.

Copyright ) 2000, The Clarion-Ledger.


-- (, March 21, 2000

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