PA--Clean-up Efforts Continue to Restore Oil-Laden Area : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread



March 14, 2000 By BILL BUCHANAN Special to the Times

TINICUM -- As workers toil to restore the oil-laden area of a federal wildlife area, officials begin to chart ways to prevent an occurrence in the future.

The work continues to clean up the oil that spilled from a Sunoco pipeline into the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. The amount of tanker truck traffic, which had been hauling out the West African crude from the spill site in the eastern end of the refuge has been greatly reduced, as the bulk of 174,000 gallons of free-standing oil has been recovered over the past month.

Workers are now primarily focusing their efforts on utilizing more passive means of clean up to recover the remainder of the oil, which is entrenched within the soil and along the shoreline of the 145-acre impoundment. The effort includes the use of absorbent materials, oil booms -- which had been put in place immediately after the discovery of the spill earlier in February -- and crews gently wisping oil to concentrate it into the absorbent materials. There is some continued vacuuming in the area called the "black hole."

As the clean-up efforts go on Sunoco pipeline crews continue to work on testing the 24-inch line that developed the crack, which caused the spill.

Over the past week, liquid nitrogen was used to freeze water that was being used to test the lines so rather than having to evacuate the pipeline, workers could get to some valves and seals which they wanted to inspect. This was several hundred yards away from the spill site. Unfortunately, there was a failure in the line and that particular section had to be replaced. Sun officials said this would delay the final testing of the line until later this month.

Once Sunoco is given a go-ahead from the Office of Pipeline Safety, they will be able to reuse the line that leaked and then replace its companion lines miter joint with an elbow joint as a precautionary measure.

It was, in fact, a miter joint in the 50-year-old pipeline that developed the crack in the spill. That section of pipeline was replaced several weeks ago and Sun officials said a company in Ohio as still conducting testing to see what may have caused the failure. As the clean-up crews and pipeline workers continue in their tasks, so too do those people looking at the environmental aspect of the spill.

Meeting on a regular basis are representatives from EPA, DEP, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which administers the refuge and Entrix, the company contracted by Sunoco to assess the environmental aspect.

Mark Roberts, a contaminants specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, said various components are being explored. Among them are remediation, which he noted is under the EPAs authority. Sunoco is responsible for removing contaminated soil and sediments, disposing of them according to regulations set for such projects and restoring those impacted areas to their original condition.

When asked if there would be installation of a coffer dam around the impact site, Roberts said, "Based on the fact that there are pipelines under pressure and there will have to be removal of soil as well as de-watering, Id have to say, yes, there is a good chance that a coffer dam will be used."

Roberts also pointed out that under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment or NRDA they have to look at compensatory authorization for the impact from the oil on the wildlife as well as to the habitats and that would also include not only oil damage directly but also the damage created by having to put in staging areas for equipment, roadways and other physical impacts to the refuge.

-- (, March 14, 2000

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