According to government documents, a badly deteriorated pipeline exploded and spilled more than 300,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) of diesel fuel just outside of New Orleans after the operator postponed necessary repairs.
Thousands of fish, birds, and other creatures were killed after the majority of the gasoline was poured into two manmade ponds known as “borrow pits,” according to state and municipal officials. According to state and federal officials, the leak affected soil as well.
The pipeline’s owner said that 315,000 gallons (1.2 million gallons) of gasoline had been skimmed and recovered, mostly from the ponds. The cleanup is still going on.
According to papers from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a leak from a 16-inch-diameter (40-centimeter-diameter) line owned by Collins Pipeline Co. was detected near a levee in St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, on Dec. 27. The leak had not before been made public.
According to government documents, an examination of the 42-year-old Meraux Pipeline in October 2020 discovered exterior deterioration along a 22-foot (7-meter) stretch of pipe at the same location as the leak.
According to the documents, the pipe had allegedly lost 75% of its metal where the corrosion was the severe, necessitating quick repair. However, according to the documents, maintenance was postponed and the line continued to operate after a second inspection determined that the corrosion was not severe enough to need immediate repair under federal regulations.
According to state and federal officials, the spilled fuel damaged soil in an environmentally sensitive location along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a closed canal. According to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Gregory Langley, a minor quantity of diesel remains in the two borrow pits.
According to information supplied by Robert “Trey” Iles, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the spill killed 2,300 fish and more than 100 other species, including 39 snakes, 32 birds, a few eels, and a blue crab.
He stated about 130 creatures were caught for rehabilitation, including 72 alligators, 23 birds, 20 snakes, and 12 turtles.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, diesel is a highly hazardous petroleum chemical that may harm fish and plants that come into direct contact with it. Small spills of fuel can evaporate or disperse spontaneously within a few days, while bigger spills might take months to decompose.
The corrosion had been known for more than a year previous to the accident, yet petroleum continued to flow down the 125-mile-long (200-kilometer-long) line from Chalmette to a storage facility in Collins, Mississippi, according to a pipeline safety advocate.
“It’s especially galling to find that Collins Pipeline’s first examination determined that the pipe was in such bad shape that it required immediate repair,” said Pipeline Safety Trust’s Bill Caram. The group, located in Bellingham, Washington, works for tighter regulation of the nation’s vast network of pipelines that transport oil, natural gas, and other hazardous substances.
Collins Pipeline is a subsidiary of PBF Energy Inc., located in Parsippany, New Jersey, which operates six refineries in the United States, including the Chalmette Refinery in St. Bernard Parish.
PBF Vice President Michael Karlovich told The Associated Press in an email that the business fixed the line for $500,000 and resumed operations last Saturday. According to him, an environmental damage assessment is in the works.
“On-water recovery efforts have been completed,” Karlovich added, “but we continue to clean and monitor the region.” He claims the location is 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) from the Mississippi River, not a few hundred feet as claimed by government officials.
The associate administrator of the federal pipeline safety agency, Alan Mayberry, identified the probable cause of the spill as “localized corrosion and metal loss” based on preliminary reports in an order to PBF Chairman Thomas Nimbley describing the steps the company had to take before it restarted the line.
According to federal records, more than two months before the spill, a PBF Energy representative told federal pipeline regulators in an October 2021 email that the company had completed repairs on another faulty section of the line but was still waiting for approval to address corrosion discovered near the rupture site.
In November 2020, shortly after the rust was discovered, the business lowered pressure within the line. According to pipeline officials, the business dropped the pressure somewhat more in November 2021 because it had not repaired the line within the time limit allowed by federal laws.
Since 2007, federal authorities have filed six enforcement actions against Collins Pipeline. According to government documents, these include a warning letter from 2021 stating management issues at the company’s pipeline control room in Texas, as well as a 2011 warning for not doing exterior corrosion testing regularly enough.
According to the data, the corporation received no fines or other penalties.