Some of the estimated 4,200 gallons (100 barrels) of crude oil that leaked from a pipeline pumping station in rural Pocahontas on Friday made it to Highland’s Silver Lake, but drinking water has not been impacted, city and pipeline officials said.
Highland Police Chief Terry Bell said some sheen had been detected at the north end of Silver Lake, but none had made it as far as the Interstate 70 bridge, where booms have been deployed to keep any oil from possibly making it to the main body of the lake, south of the interstate.
“So we feel good about it,” Bell said.
Silver Lake serves as the city’s water supply. Highland also supplies water to the villages of Grantfork, Pierron and St. Jacob from the lake.
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Bell said monitoring is ongoing at the water treatment plant, but so far, no oil has been detected.
“None of the environmental tests have indicated anything different,” Bell said.
However, as a further precaution, pumps and associated equipment have been placed at the water treatment facility to provide access to an alternative water source, if required.
In order to protect the equipment and workers on the lake, the city of Highland has closed Silver Lake to all recreational and sporting activities. The closure does not affect Silver Lake Park.
The spill happened at a pumping station near Baumann and Pocahontas roads, near the Bond-Madison county line, northeast of Highland.
The unmanned pumping station, which is owned by Houston, Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline L.P., is part of the Capwood pipeline, a 20-inch conduit that connects an oil storage facility near Patoka, Ill., with the refinery in Wood River.
A failure in a small-diameter fitting within the station was to blame for the leak, company officials and state investigators said.
Plains’ Control Center in Texas received a call at approximately 7:45 a.m. on Friday from a citizen who saw oil being released from the Pocahontas station, according to the company.
The company said the controller shut down the pipeline within two minutes and stopped the flow of oil.
But recent rains had area ditches flowing, and they carried some of the oil into Silver Creek and ultimately the north end of Silver Lake.
Plains personnel arrived on scene within approximately 45 minutes and visually confirmed the release and called for additional resources to assist, the company said.
The leak was reported by the company to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency at 11:30 a.m., said Blaine Kinsley, manager of emergency operations for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).
The spill was also reported to Madison County Emergency Management, and the EPA. Highland city officials said they were notified around 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
Late Friday morning, clean-up crews were placing absorbent pads in the ditch on the east side of Baumann Road to catch some of the oil. Buoys used to catch floating oil were also placed about a mile north of the spill site where the road ditches dump into a larger tributary of Little Silver Creek.
Later in the day, the company had also placed booms at the Illinois Route 160 bridge in Grantfork and in other tributary streams.
Highland firefighters placed booms at the Interstate 70 bridge immediately after the city was informed of the spill to keep the oil from making it to the main body of the lake.
Ironically, the equipment the city deployed at the bridge was paid for by another oil pipeline company, TransCanada, when it negotiated a deal with the city in 2009 for an easement to bury its Keystone Pipeline under the north end of Silver Lake. Bell said Highland firefighters have trained using this equipment once a year ever since.
A unified command has been established with participation from the U.S. EPA, the Illinois EPA, the city of Highland and Plains. In conjunction with the unified command, Plains has mobilized the following resources:
▪ more than 210 response personnel;
▪ 2,700 feet of boom deployed, with 7,100 additional feet available;
▪ eight vacuum trucks;
▪ 17 response vessels; and
▪ a helicopter for observation overflights.
Bell said coordination has been going well.
“We are in good shape,” said Bell. “We have been meeting with them (Plains) multiple times a day — at least twice a day — and have multiple phone conversations…
“They don’t make a move unless they (Plains and the EPA) are on the same page and we are on the same page.”
Response crews have geographically divided the cleanup effort into four primary areas, with personnel, including safety staff, working to achieve objectives specified for each area.
“These objectives include monitoring and adjusting containment booms as needed, removing free oil, oiled debris, soil and vegetation. Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique (SCAT) teams, which will further define clean-up ‘end-point’ objectives are continuing their work,” a statement from Plains said.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Department closed Baumann Road on Monday from Pocahontas Road to Krause Road to facilitate recovery operations. A staging area for EPA workers was also set up on Fairview Road at Silver Creek on Monday.
“Resources will continue to be assessed and deployed as required by the response. Additionally, members of the Unified Command are coordinating with local police and fire department personnel,” a statement from Plains said.
Third-party experts, overseen by U.S. EPA, continue to perform air and water monitoring, and results to date have shown no impact to the public water supply, and no air reading has been taken that would impact public health.
In a written statement, company issued an apology for the spill.
“Plains sincerely regrets that this incident has occurred and apologizes for any inconvenience to area residents and impact to the environment. The company has mobilized a full response, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to minimize the impact of this release. Plains’ objectives remain the safety of response personnel and residents as well as an effective response and remediation effort,” the statement said.
The Highland-area spill is the second crude oil release that has made headlines for Plains in the last couple of months.
On May 19, more than 100,000 gallons of oil were estimated to have spilled when a Plains pipeline ruptured near Santa Barbara, Calif. The spill reached the Pacific Ocean. The oil killed hundreds of birds and marine mammals, mostly sea lions, and closed state beaches.
Tar balls have been found washing up on southern California beaches as far as 170 miles away.
Company offers compensation
Plains is also offering compensation to those affected by the Highland-area spill. Those who have questions or would like to submit a claim should call 888-557-5216. The company said it is addressing claims as they are received. The company has also set up a website devoted to the spill. It is www.mp29response.com.
City to be reimbursed
Chief Bell said the city has brought many of its own assets to bear, including fire, EMS and police, in the wake of the spill. But taxpayers won’t be left with the bill.
“They (Plains) indicated they will fully reimburse us for resources we have expended,” Bell said.
Sen. Durbin monitoring situation
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said his office is keeping tabs on the clean-up as well.
Durbin issued the following statement: “My staff is in contact with Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis, as well as the state and federal agencies involved in the response to the oil spill — the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. I’m concerned about the proximity of the oil to Highland’s drinking water source. I will continue to monitor the situation and make sure that every necessary federal resource is made available to Highland.”
How long the cleanup effort will take is hard to say, Bell said. He expects major parts of the cleanup that are focused around the lake could wind down in coming weeks. However, efforts to clean up creeks and ditches closer to the spill site could take much longer.
“As they get down to just cleaning the creeks out, that’s going to be a weeks-on-end process. It’s a much harder job,” Bell said.
Much of that part of the cleanup will have to be done by hand, because accessing the areas is difficult, Bell said.
“We’ve been told by Unified Command the cleanup is expected to take several weeks,” said Meredith Matthews, communications manager Plains All American Pipeline.