Maryland: Six Months Later, Still Drilling for Oil Spill Answers : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Six Months Later, Still Drilling for Oil Spill Answers

By Raymond McCaffrey

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, September 24, 2000; Page M04

With the first phase of the Chalk Point oil-spill cleanup nearly complete, officials are now focusing on "making sure the responsible parties restore the natural resources" in the area, a state official said last week.

Bob Summers of the Maryland Department of the Environment told about two dozen residents at a town meeting Wednesday that he and other natural resource trustees overseeing the cleanup are working to assess the oil spill's overall impact on the environment.

"There is a loss of value and use. . . . One of our big jobs is calculating how much that loss is," Summers said. The April 7 spill from a Potomac Electric Power Co. pipeline dumped an estimated 111,000 gallons of oil into Swanson Creek at the company's generating station in Prince George's County. The day after the spill, storms with high winds drove the oil into the Patuxent River, where it fouled at least 17 miles of shoreline, much of it in Calvert County. The town meeting, held at the Calvert County fairgrounds, came as several groups are gearing up to focus attention on the causes and aftermath of the spill.

Immediately after the spill, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety shut down the 51.5-mile pipeline. The National Transportation Safety Board, which discovered a crack in the pipe, is continuing its investigation.

Members of the state Senate's Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee recently toured the area to prepare for an Oct. 3 hearing that could lead to new pipeline legislation, said Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's, Calvert). Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) last month named former state senator C. Bernard "Bernie" Fowler to head the new Patuxent River Oil Spill Citizens Advisory Committee. Fowler said at the town meeting that the spill "shouldn't have happened" but he hoped "this will turn out to be a blessing in disguise."

"There's already some evidence of some surge in energy to clean the Patuxent River up," he said.

Fowler pointed to the "oyster seeding" done by Pepco and others Wednesday. About 1 million oysters were planted in oyster shell bars on the river bottom near Broomes Island, company officials said. A similar project is planned for the river near Benedict.

Throughout the summer, Pepco workers restored private property, beaches and shoreline along and near the Patuxent River.

"Eighty-five percent of the zones have met the phase one criteria," said Mike Welsh, an on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Long-term restoration of the environmentally sensitive area could take years, according to Carolyn Watson, an assistant secretary for resource management with the state Department of Natural Resour

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 27, 2000

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