Colonial Pipeline seeking water treatment plant permit at site of 2020 Huntersville gas leak

Roughly two million gallons of gasoline leaked from the pipeline in August 2020.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 10:07 PM EDT
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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - In August 2020, the largest onshore gasoline spill in U.S. history happened in the town of Huntersville.

When the leak was first discovered by two young people riding ATVs in the Oehler Nature Preserve, Colonial Pipeline estimated about 60,000 gallons of gasoline had leaked.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the company told WBTV that two million gallons of gasoline were released and as of Dec. 31, they have recovered about 1.7 million gallons.

In the years since the leak, the cleanup process has impacted people living on and around Huntersville-Concord Road.

On Thursday night, residents had the opportunity to voice their concerns during a public hearing, as Colonial Pipeline is requesting a permit to put a wastewater treatment facility on site.

“It has caused a lot of concern for myself and my neighbors here because we are on well water,” Paul Lawrence, who lives in the Pavilion subdivision nearby, said.

Lawrence has lived in there for nine years and has spent the past couple of years worrying about the health of his family.

“We need to hold these guys accountable,” he said. “Their focus on the bottom line has been clear from the beginning.”

Related: NCDEQ, Colonial Pipeline reach $5 million agreement for massive gasoline leak in Huntersville

The initial cleanup included trucks carting off contaminated soil. The current phase consists of crews extracting groundwater to separate the chemicals from it, which the company wants to do on-site.

Colonial Pipeline applied for a Wastewater Discharge Permit, which has to be approved by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

In a statement a spokesperson for Colonial Pipeline Company told WBTV:

“This permit will allow Colonial Pipeline to enhance our ongoing recovery and remediation efforts with a system that will safely return treated water to the local watershed while reducing truck traffic at and around the site. We remain committed to working closely with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as well as county and town leaders, to ensure our work at the site meets or exceeds all permitting requirements.”

Senator Natasha Marcus is working on behalf of constituents in Huntersville to ensure this is the best path forward for everyone.

“Whether it’s safe to be treating the wastewater on site and releasing it there, if that would be better for the cleanup overall and the safety of the environment,” Senator Marcus said.

Marcus said the Department of Environmental Quality will make a decision on the permit within 90 days of the meeting.

Related: New estimates show two million gallons of fuel released in 2020 Colonial Pipeline spill