The cleanup in the Glen Oaks Nature Preserve continues around-the-clock at least through the weekend after investigators located a five-inch crack in a section of the coal-tar lined pipe carrying crude oil through the region.
Colerain Township Fire Chief Steve Conn said engineers identified the crack that led to an estimated 10,000-gallon spill into the protected area on a steep ravine in the park. Colerain Township firefighters first reported the incident last Monday.
“Ten thousand gallons is a lot of oil, so it looks bad,” Conn said.
As of Saturday morning, workers for Sunoco had removed more than 25,000 gallons of a mixture of crude oil and water from the site, according to Environmental Protection Agency. Once the oil and water separate, officials will be able to give a more accurate estimate of the number of gallons of crude oil spilled.
Also on Saturday, a specialty-engineered repair clamp that workers applied to the failed part of the pipe will be tested in coordination with federal authorities, according to Sunoco Logistics spokesperson Jeff Shields.
The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulates all pipelines around the country.
Shields said that Sunoco has agreed to cut out that section of the 64-year-old pipe in the coming months, preserve it and send it to a metallurgical engineering lab to find out why it failed.
Shields said that as of Saturday, no schedule for re-starting the pipe has been announced.
Protecting wildlife a part of the plan
Conn expects daytime operations to clear the site will continue for weeks. He said efforts to keep wildlife out of the area are also in place, including hourly checks of bucket traps to catch endangered cave salamanders migrating through the area.
“If they are paying that much attention to the salamander, that’s reassuring,” said Conn, who lives in the area.
Workers have been trying to keep deer and birds out of the spill area as well. The pipeline’s designation as a "High Consequence Area" means that pipeline operators were aware of special risks inherent in its route.
“We’ve got a lot of work going on down here,” Conn said.
He said that workers have also been brushing and cleaning East Miami River Road at least three times a day to minimize the impact of trucks and heavy machinery kicking up dust and dirt.
Inland oil spills leave record of damages
While oil spills along coasts and offshore garner heavy attention, inland pipeline failures account for the majority of oil spill accidents, according to EPA records. In 2010, a six and a half foot tear in a pipeline released more than 1.1 million gallons of heavy crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, leading to a more than $765 million clean-up by pipeline owner Enbridge Energy Partners.
A North Dakota spill this week released an approximate 34,000 gallons of crude oil.
In a study of oil spills completed for the Environmental Protection agency in the early 2000s, co-author and expert consultant Gary Yoshioka determined that crude oil spills pose a special kind of risk to natural environments. Because of their proximity to different populations and sensitive habitats, crude oil leaks can result in serious damage.
“Some people say the more time goes by, the older these pipelines get, the more likelihood there are for spills,” Yoshioka said.