Crews work to contain gas pipeline spill in Washington state

Dec 12, 2023, 12:50 PM

CONWAY, Wash. (AP) — Responders set up a containment boom after a gasoline spill from the weekend failure of part of a pipeline in northwest Washington state, but federal regulators reported no signs Tuesday of any fuel reaching the Skagit River.

About 25,660 gallons (97,100 liters) of gasoline spilled after a small tube leading from the main Olympic Pipeline to a pressure-check valve failed on Sunday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release.

The EPA said responders placed an absorbent boom downstream of the spill in Hill Ditch and Bulson Creek, which support salmon and other wildlife and which flow into the Skagit River.

There was no sign the fuel had reached the Skagit, the EPA said, and no injuries to wildlife had been observed. The spill prompted the precautionary closure of an elementary school on Monday, but it reopened Tuesday.

Air quality monitoring indicated there was no risk to public health, according to the EPA.

The Olympic Pipeline is operated by the energy company BP and runs along a corridor from Blaine, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, transporting gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from four refineries in northwestern Washington state. In 1999, the pipeline spilled more than 236,000 gallons (893,360 liters) of gasoline in Bellingham and erupted in a fireball that killed three people.

Sunday’s spill was the largest in Washington state since 2000, but nationally spills of that size occur with unfortunate frequency, said Kenneth Clarkson, spokesman for the Pipeline Safety Trust, which was formed after the 1999 explosion. There was an 88,000-gallon (333,100-liter) oil spill in Oklahoma City in September, and a 51,420-gallon (195,000-liter) spill in Cushing, Oklahoma, in October, he noted.

“To see another spill of this magnitude from this pipeline is more than extremely disheartening,” Clarkson said in an emailed statement. “This time, we are fortunate that nobody was injured or killed; any spill, and especially one of this size, that happens near our schools and into our treasured waterways and salmon habitat is completely unacceptable.”

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Crews work to contain gas pipeline spill in Washington state