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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pipeline expected to reopen

Associated Press

RENTON, Wash. — Olympic Pipe Line Co. officials expected to restart Western Washington’s main fuel pipeline system by late Tuesday, after it was shut down as a precaution after a weekend fire in a test line.

“They’re busy finalizing repairs and testing and all that, but it is looking very good,” Olympic spokeswoman Lee Keller said early Tuesday afternoon.

The plan to complete repairs and restart the line was approved by on-scene coordinators for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Ecology, said Olympic spokesman Michael Abendhoff.

The 400-mile pipeline system, which runs from near the Canadian border to Portland, is the primary supplier of jet fuel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Sea-Tac officials asked airlines to avoid refueling at the airport until the line reopens.

A major break in the main pipeline in 1999 at Bellingham caused a massive fire and killed three people. Sunday morning’s incident was far less serious, but officials took extra precautions to reassure people the system was safe.

A half-inch diameter test line that runs off the main pipeline ruptured Sunday at Olympic’s pumping station in this south Seattle suburb, causing a fire that burned for about three hours. No one was injured, though three firefighters were checked at a hospital after fuel splashed on them.

Between 3,300 and 10,000 gallons of fuel leaked from the test line, which is used to sample product moving in the main pipe. Much of the leaked fuel burned. EPA and DOE officials determined that no traces of fuel were found in nearby streams, Keller said.

Olympic officials said a metal electrical conduit apparently rubbed against the test line, opening a pinhole leak. Investigators had no leads on what sparked the fire, Keller said.

Damage was confined to the test line, a valve on the 20-inch-diameter main pipeline and a small section of electrical conduit. Company officials checking similar installations throughout the system had found no similar problems, Keller said.

The pipeline system moves 12 million gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel through Western Washington every day, from refineries at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, and March Point, near Anacortes, to as far south as Portland. It is the primary way Sea-Tac fills airlines’ needs for about 1.2 million gallons of jet fuel a day, airport spokesman Bob Parker said.

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