Chevron Fuel Spill in Utah Much Worse Than Thought

March 26, 2013

A Chevron fuel spill near a northern Utah bird refuge is much worse than originally thought as up to 27,000 gallons might have leaked, authorities said.

A split in a pipeline that runs from Salt Lake City to Spokane, Wash., is suspected of releasing diesel fuel into soil and marshes at Willard Bay State Park, according to the U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The agency has filed a corrective action order against Chevron Pipe Line Co. that requires it to gain government approval before the pipeline can reopen. The order also requires Chevron to operate the pipeline at only 80 percent of normal pressure once it reopens.

The Texas-based company must “take the necessary corrective action to protect the public, property and the environment from potential hazards” associated with the pipeline failure, the agency directive says.

Curtis Kimbel is overseeing the cleanup as the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator.

“It is critical that we work to recover as much of the spilled diesel fuel as possible,” Kimbel told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Now that we have a better picture of the amount of diesel fuel spilled from the pipeline, we can more accurately benchmark the progress of cleanup efforts.”

Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone told Ogden’s Standard-Examiner that the company continues to review the order and will cooperate to address the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s requirements.

“CPL is committed to work with PHMSA for incident-free operations of our pipeline,” he wrote by email.

Emergency crews had removed over 21,000 gallons of spilled fuel as of Friday night, and up to 6,500 gallons might remain. Chevron officials said revised figures would be released Monday afternoon.

Initial reports pegged the spill at up to 6,000 gallons, and Chevron later revised that to some 8,100 gallons.

The spill occurred Monday near the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Willard Bay State Park.

Crews are using absorbent booms and vacuum trucks to remove any contamination before it reaches Willard Bay Reservoir and nearby nesting and feeding habitat.

Willard Bay features nearly 10,000 acres of fresh water generally northwest of Ogden. In addition to wildlife, it has crappie, walleye and catfish.

Only minimal harm to wildlife has been reported so far. Trace levels of fuel compounds had been found in water outside the containment zone, authorities said.

The exact cause of the spill remains under investigation.

It’s Chevron’s third leak in Utah in the last three years. A June 2010 spill involved more than 30,000 gallons of crude oil near Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City, while a December 2010 leak near the same site involved about 21,000 gallons.

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