BUHL, Idaho – A pressurized pipeline in south-central Idaho near Buhl ruptured and spilled diesel fuel that contaminated soil and a pond used for watering livestock, but hasn’t made it to a creek that’s a tributary of the Snake River, federal officials say.
“So far we’ve dodged a bullet,” Bill Dunbar, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Friday.
The federal agency has a worker at the scene providing oversight of cleanup of the spill on private land reported Tuesday when a resident smelled diesel fuel.
“So far, things seem to be going smoothly,” said Dunbar, noting the company that owns the pipeline responded quickly.
The pipeline belongs to San Antonio, Texas,-based Andeavor, which said Friday that about 160 barrels, or nearly 7,000 gallons, of diesel fuel spilled from its 8-inch diameter Northwest Products Pipeline.
“We don’t know the cause of the leak,” company spokesman Brad Shafer said.
Company response crews from Idaho, Utah and Washington and local contractors, about 80 workers in all, are cleaning up the spill, Shafer said. He didn’t have a timeline for when the work might be done.
He estimated that an area about the size of four or five football fields is affected but that the pond has acted as an impoundment for the diesel fuel and made the cleanup easier. He said a short stream that starts at a spring and leads to the pond is being cleaned up, and some of the unnamed stream below the pond is also being worked on.
Shafer said Andeavor bought the pipeline from another company about five years ago and that the pipeline likely dates to the 1950s.
“I believe it’s the original pipe that hasn’t been disturbed since initial construction,” he said.
He said the pipe was pressurized, but the company didn’t detect any drop in pressure due to the leak, and it’s trying to find out why.
He said the faulty section has been cut out for analysis and the pipeline repaired, though he wasn’t sure if the company had received approval from regulators to resume using it.
Shafer said the pipeline originates at refineries in Salt Lake City and supplies areas in southern Idaho and eastern Washington.
Tiffany Bowman, a hazardous waste science officer for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, has been at the scene and said Andeavor appeared to have the situation under control.
“They seem to be responding quickly and doing all they can at the site,” she said.
Dunbar said a federal agency called the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is also at the scene and will conduct an investigation. That agency didn’t immediately respond to inquiries from the Associated Press on Friday.
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