Maryland: U.S. Criticizes Pepco's Response to worst oil spill in company's 104 year history : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

U.S. Criticizes Pepco's Spill Response

By Raymond McCaffrey and Todd Shields

Washington Post Staff Writers

Wednesday, April 12, 2000 ; B05

The worst oil spill in the 104-year history of Potomac Electric Power Co. continued to spread across Patuxent River shoreline in Southern Maryland yesterday, as federal officials faulted the company's early efforts to clean up the spill.

Company officials said they had doubled the size of cleanup crews on duty, and federal officials said additional workers would be called in today.

About 400 workers from Pepco and others participating in the cleanup were deployed yesterday to contain what was left of more than 111,000 gallons of fuel oil that leaked from a pipeline Friday evening at Pepco's Chalk Point Generating Station in Aquasco, according to Nancy Moses, a Pepco spokeswoman.

Moses said oil from the spill at the southern edge of Prince George's County was "showing up in some of the tidal and sensitive stream areas" yesterday after washing up Sunday and Monday along nearly five miles of Patuxent River shoreline in Calvert County.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), whose district includes the stricken area and whose St. Mary's County home lies along a portion of the Patuxent that was afflicted yesterday by a sheen of oil, flew over the river in a helicopter. He said what he saw was "awful."

"I don't think the response to this was as effective as everyone hoped it would be," Hoyer said. "The contractors hired to handle the oil spill did not move as rapidly, or marshal a work force as large as needed, to get this under control."

EPA spokesman Vance Evans said last night that workers were expected to toil through the night laying floating barriers called booms across the mouths of creeks to prevent oil from reaching into them. He said federal authorities were calling in more workers, though he did not have a specific number. "Everything is being upgraded," Evans said. "We're ramping up."

"Having more booms in place Friday and Saturday would have been helpful," Evans said. "A stronger response from the Pepco contractors would have helped. . . . I don't know what the exact problem was, but the booms didn't get up in time."

Responding to the criticism, Moses maintained that Pepco's response to the leak has been dictated from the start by the advice of state and federal officials who began arriving on scene soon after the spill was detected.

"We were more than willing to do what we were being directed to do," Moses said. Company officials also announced that they and state and federal agencies had scheduled a community outreach meeting for 7:30 tonight at the Benedict volunteer fire and rescue squad station.

Boaters have been warned to stay away from stricken portions of the river.

Pepco officials said they had the oil under control about 30 minutes after the leak was detected Friday. They set up booms to contain slicks in Swanson Creek, which lies next to the Pepco station and empties into the Patuxent.

However, they said they ran into trouble when a severe storm swept into the area Saturday night, buffeting the creek with winds gusting up to 50 mph.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the leak. Pepco officials said the pipeline had never before suffered leaks. The pipeline was last inspected 18 months ago, a Pepco official said, and it was being prepared for maintenance when the spill was detected.

-- Carl Jenkins (, April 12, 2000


Pepco officials said the pipeline had never before suffered leaks.

This makes it highly suspicious--most likley a technical problem like valve control or pressure conundrum.

-- Wellesley (, April 13, 2000.

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