Pipeline workers discovered a 4,000-barrel crude oil spill in Louisiana last week, and say that mopping up the spill will likely keep cleanup crews and regulatory agencies in the sparsely-populated area for months.
The oil spilled into Tete Bayou, and though it’s been contained enough to prevent it from entering Caddo Lake, which is a source of drinking water, the spill has killed 84 animals — mostly fish and reptiles — as of Sunday morning. Though no evacuations were ordered, strong fumes from the oil spill caused three families who lived nearby to voluntarily leave. Sunoco Logistics, which owns the pipeline, is paying for the families’ living expenses while they’re away from their homes.
“I would call it a significant size spill,” Bill Rhotenberry, the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal on-scene coordinator told the Shreveport Times.
The Sunoco pipeline carries oil 1,000 miles from Longview, Texas to Samaria, Michigan. Sunoco says that once pipeline monitors discovered a drop in pressure in the line at around 8 a.m. last Monday, they shut the pipeline down within 20 minutes. The segment of pipeline that runs from Longview into Mayersville, Mississippi remains shut off. The cause of the spill is being investigated.
Sunoco has sent about 250 contractors to the site of the spill to clean up the spilled oil, and so far, about 2,400 barrels have been recovered. According to the EPA, the spill’s cleanup will likely take months.
The EPA is also monitoring air quality near the pipeline spill to ensure it doesn’t pose a public health risk. So far, however, the agency says the levels of volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) coming from the spilled oil aren’t concerning.
“The only risk of VOCs is in the immediate area of the oil,” Rhotenberry said. “Out of the spill’s pathway it’s not as much of an issue.”
Oil spills aren’t uncommon in the United States. This year, in Colorado alone, it happens on average about twice a day. North Dakota, a state that’s also familiar with spills, is planning on building and expanding enough pipelines and refineries to double its pipeline capacity over the next two years. And though much of America’s attention on pipelines is focused on Keystone XL, oil and gas pipelines continue to be proposed and built in states around the United States.
Louisiana is a major player in the country’s energy market — the state is second only to Texas in total and operating oil refineries.