By Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI: Federal environmental officials now estimate more than 20,000 gallons of crude oil — double the initial estimates — leaked from a pipeline into a nature preserve in southwest Ohio.
Meanwhile, Sunoco Logistics said Monday that the pipeline has been repaired and reopened. Sunoco shut off the stretch of Mid-Valley Pipeline from Hebron, Ky., to Lima, Ohio, early March 18 after a leak was confirmed.
Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said under a federally approved plan, a specially engineered clamp was placed on the 20-inch diameter pipeline, which had a 5-inch crack that leaked oil. The clamp was tested before oil flow resumed Sunday evening.
Shields declined to say how much of the oil supply was disrupted in the last week in a system that runs about 1,000 miles from Texas to Michigan. He said the information is considered internal company business.
“The cause is still under investigation,” Shields added.
The oil leaked into an intermittent stream and acre-sized marshy area in the Oak Glen Nature Preserve just west of Cincinnati. Teams from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio EPA and other federal, state and local agencies responded after Sunoco Logistics reported the leak at about 1 a.m. March 18.
Officials say no problems have been found with air quality or local water wells, but some small wildlife has been affected by contamination.
Cleanup work continued Monday, with officials at the site reporting that 35,000 gallons of oil/water mix had been collected so far, with some 17,000 gallons of that being crude oil.
Sunoco Logistics and federal officials last week used a figure of 240 barrels, or 10,000 gallons, for the leak, but the U.S. EPA increased estimates to about 500 barrels, or some 21,000 gallons, in its latest site update.
Shields said Sunoco is still evaluating the oil release totals. He said most of the company’s response team remains at the site, and is coordinating with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and other authorities.
“We will be working closely with them,” he said, saying plans call for the section of the pipe that cracked to be cut out sometime in coming months and sent away to a metallurgical engineering lab “for failure analysis.”
The 374-acre nature preserve in suburban Colerain Township is part of the Great Parks of Hamilton County system. Wildlife officials say animals including crawfish, salamanders and frogs have been affected by the oil, with a few found dead at the scene. Contaminated animals are being collected, cleaned and released, officials said, adding that colder weather, with freezing temperatures at night, has reduced the number of wildlife moving through the leak area.
A Monday briefing report provided by the Colerain Township Fire Department said workers have been flushing floating and pooled oil from the stream into a newly built dam and are taking steps to remove remaining sheen on pond water and along the shoreline.
“Everything looked good,” Fire Capt. Steve Conn said Monday on cleanup progress and the restoration of oil flow.