Ranchers concerned gasoline leak could contaminate water supply for livestock

2013-07-09T12:24:00Z Ranchers concerned gasoline leak could contaminate water supply for livestockBy Cindy Uken, Billings Gazette The Prairie Star
July 09, 2013 12:24 pm  • 

LODGE GRASS, Mont. — A father and son who farm and raise Angus cattle near a pipeline that spilled gasoline on the Crow Reservation this week said they are worried about possible contamination to the animals' water source.

“We’ve got a reservoir that our cows drink out of,” said Dale Herman, a farmer and rancher from Lodge Grass who raises about 200 cattle. “We’re kind of concerned about that.”

Herman’s son, Lamont Herman of St. Xavier, also has about 200 cattle on 9,500 acres of leased land. He shares his father's concerns but said he is impressed with how quickly Phillips 66 shut down the pipeline and responded to the spill.

“As big as they are, they are on top of it,” Lamont Herman said. “They’re doing a good job. The worst part is the unknown. As far as I can tell, they’ve got it under control. At least I hope they do.”

The Phillips 66 pipeline control center in Bartlesville, Okla., detected a leak at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in its 8-inch Seminoe Pipeline 15 miles southwest of Lodge Grass and immediately shut it down, according to Dennis Nuss, a spokesman for Phillips 66.

He would not say how deep the pipeline is buried but said federal regulations require this type of pipeline to be buried a minimum of 36 inches underground. The pipeline depth beyond this requirement is based on many factors to ensure the safety of the operation, he said.

The cause of the spill is under investigation. It could take several days to several months to determine, according to federal authorities.

Crews were sent to assess the leak, which is in the Soap Creek area, Nuss said. State, local, federal and tribal organizations were notified.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline Safety Administration, Phillips 66, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Crow Tribe responded to the scene.

Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote said company representatives told him that early estimates indicated that about 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, of gasoline spilled. On Friday, Nuss said the company estimates the spill to be “less than 600 barrels.”

Nuss did not specify how the fuel will be cleaned up, only that Phillips 66 will work with state and federal authorities and tribal leaders to develop a plan that will ensure that the site is cleaned up properly and in a way that protects the health and safety of the community, employees and responders.

“The first step is to sample and analyze the soil,” Nuss said. “Based on the results, a site-specific plan will be developed and must be approved by the appropriate authorities before work can begin.”

Nuss said the leak posed no threat to the community or water sources.

The site of the fracture is 11 miles from where the Seminoe Pipeline broke twice 16 years ago.

The tandem breaks in 1997 resulted in Conoco Pipe Line Co. paying $465,000 for environmental violations after more than 2,300 barrels of gasoline spilled near Lodge Grass and Banner, Wyo.

The oil company changed its corporate and pipeline company name after merging with Phillips Petroleum in 2002.

Underground earth movements caused the fractures in the Seminoe Pipeline at that time, according to court documents.

After cleaning up the Lodge Grass spill and making temporary repairs to the pipeline, the company laid about 3,400 feet of steel-coated replacement pipeline at a lower-than-normal depth of 6 to 8 feet below grade to avoid future ruptures from unstable soils. The company also installed strain gauges on portions of the pipeline in the area of the spill to monitor future ground movements.

This week’s leak occurred in “unusual terrain,” according to Patricia Klinger of the Pipeline Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The junior Herman said he would not be surprised if underground movements were the cause of the current spill. The terrain surrounding the leaking pipeline is steep, rugged and accessible only by four-wheel drive. There also is a layer of clay, Herman said.

Herman said he witnessed the 1997 spill, and based on that experience he is confident Phillips 66 will do right by the farmers, ranchers and residents.

“I feel comfortable they will correct the problem,” Herman said. “I want to know if there is something we can do to assist to minimize the impact to the animals. Our family has been on this land since 1938. We’re going to be here and (Phillips 66) is going to be here. I don’t want to be a thorn in their side.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said Friday that he has been engaged with all parties to ensure the spill gets cleaned up and that proper steps are taken to restore the affected land.

U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said he spoke to Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote to express his concerns and to see how he and his office might be of help as the tribe works to respond to the spill.

Representatives of the Pipeline Safety Administration, Phillips 66, the Environmental Protection Administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Crow Tribe, including historic preservation monitors, remained at the site Friday.

The Seminoe Pipeline transports finished petroleum products such as unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from the Billings refinery to Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

Article from: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/ranchers-concerned-gasoline-leak-could-contaminate-water-supply-for-livestock/article_dad1fc20-8c5f-532c-96f3-452a753d7fe8.html

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