A massive cleanup effort is ongoing after a corroded pipeline ruptured near New Orleans last month, spilling more than 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel and killing thousands of fish, birds and other animals.
The Dec. 27 spill had not been publicly reported, according to documents from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The pipeline’s operator has been accused of delaying needed repairs to a 22-foot section of pipe at the site of the spill.
About 315,000 gallons of diesel-contaminated water has since been recovered from two artificial ponds near a levee in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. Some 2,300 fish and more than 100 other animals, including snakes, birds, eels and crabs, have been killed, said Robert “Trey” Iles, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Nearly 130 other animals, including 72 alligators, 23 birds, 20 snakes and 12 turtles, were captured for rehabilitation, he added.
An October 2020 inspection showed the compromised pipe had lost 75% of its metal where corrosion was worst, damage that would have required immediate repairs, according to federal records. But repairs were delayed after a second inspection found the corrosion didn’t require immediate attention.
Bill Caram, a pipeline safety advocate from the Pipeline Safety Trust, said it was “maddening” that pipeline operation continued for more than a year after the 2020 inspection.
Diesel is a highly toxic petroleum product that can kill fish and plants that come into direct contact with it, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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The pipeline is operated by Collins Pipeline, which owns six petroleum refineries nationwide, including one in St. Bernard Parish. The company spent $500,000 to repair the line and resumed its use Jan. 8, said Michael Karlovich, vice president of PBF Energy Inc., which owns Collins Pipeline.
The company is monitoring recovery operations and an environmental damage assessment is pending, he said.
The Louisiana spill follows an oil spill last October in California that dumped 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. Amplify Energy Corp. was indicted in December on a misdemeanor charge after prosecutors accused the Houston-based oil company of acting negligently and allowing the oil to leak for hours despite alarms alerting workers to the pipeline rupture.
Contributing: The Associated Press