Massive gasoline spill near Huntersville even worse than company thought, state says

Massive gasoline spill near Huntersville even worse than company thought, state says
Massive gasoline spill near Huntersville even worse than company thought, state says (Source: WBTV)

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Colonial Pipeline Co. could face more penalties after new data revealed even more gasoline may have spilled near Huntersville than the company’s most recent estimate, state officials said.

The company’s previous 1.2-million gallon estimate ranked the spill as one of the worst in North Carolina’s history.

Colonial told the state Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday that its estimate was no longer accurate, according to a DEQ news release.

“It is unacceptable that for eight months Colonial Pipeline has been unable to provide a reliable accounting of the amount of gasoline released into this community,” Dionne Delli-Gatti, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, said in a statement.

“We will take all necessary steps and exercise all available authority to hold Colonial Pipeline accountable for what has become one of the largest gasoline spills in the country,” Delli-Gatti said.

The spill occurred Aug. 14 where the pipeline crosses Mecklenburg County’s 142-acre Oehler Nature Preserve at 14511 Huntersville-Concord Road, east of Huntersville, the county said.

Two teenagers on ATVs who chanced upon the spill were recently honored by the town of Huntersville for reporting their discovery.

NEW REVELATION

In January, to further determine the full extent of the spill, Colonial said it deployed a technology similar to an X-ray or MRI that in part uses ultraviolet light to find petroleum hydrocarbons in soil.

Colonial officials said they received the results of the analysis last week but don’t have a final estimate of the additional amount of gasoline that might have spilled beyond the previous 1.2-million gallon estimate.

That figure was nearly 18 times the amount of gasoline the company originally thought had leaked, The Charlotte Observer reported in January.

“Each volume estimate that Colonial has provided since discovering the release has been based on the best available data at that time,” the company said in an update on its website Friday.

“That said, while the estimated release volume may be revised as a result of this new data, we will continue to follow the science and communicate what we find with the public and our regulators,” according to the company update.

‘FULL ACCOUNTABILITY’

Colonial Pipeline officials said the company “remains committed to taking full accountability for remediation of this location, and deploying the required resources to protect human health and the environment. We will be here for as long as it takes to safely remediate this area.”

By April 26, Colonial must submit a revised comprehensive site assessment report in response to a Notice of Continuing Violation issued by the state in February.

The notice identified 22 deficiencies and ordered the company to extend its residential private well sampling radius by another 500 feet, according to Friday’s DEQ release.

As of April 12, Colonial said it recovered about 85% of the previously estimated 1.2 million gallons.

“Ongoing volume recovery indicates the majority of product is being recovered, and the environmental plan is working as designed.,” Colonial officials said in Thursday’s online update.

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