South Carolina authorities have been monitoring the cleanup of thousands of barrels of gasoline that leaked last December from a pipeline in Belton, S.C., that would feed the proposed Palmetto Pipeline along coastal Georgia.
Since the leak in the Plantation Pipeline was reported Dec. 8, some 176,901 gallons of gasoline have been recovered in the cleanup, said Jim Beasley, spokesperson for South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. Additionally, 2,832 tons of soil have been removed and treated, he said. It is estimated as much as 300,000 gallons of gas have leaked in total.
The Plantation Pipeline, which is operated by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, presently runs from Louisiana to Virginia. Additionally, it would feed the proposed Palmetto Pipeline that Kinder Morgan intends to run through 210 miles of Georgia. That stretch includes 24 miles of Glynn County, 18 miles of Camden County and 17 miles of McIntosh County.
Opponents of the Palmetto project, which would run a total of 360 miles from Belton to Jacksonville, say the leak is a perfect example of why they do not want the pipeline running through wetlands and under rivers such as the Altamaha and Satilla.
The leak in Belton was caused by the failure of a sleeve in the 27-inch pipeline, Beasley said. Around 8,000 barrels of gasoline have leaked from the pipeline, he said.
“Although contamination did impact the unnamed tributary off Brown’s Creek, no exceedances of surface water standards have been recorded in the tributary since January 2015,” Beasley said.
Regular monitoring of the ambient air and soil vapors is being conducted daily as a protective measure, he added.
Melissa Ruiz, spokeswoman for Kinder Morgan, said the sleeve that failed was installed on the pipeline in 1979 and has been repaired.
“We are now inspecting other sleeves along the system that were installed during the same time period,” Ruiz said.
She said the company is working closely with the South Carolina DHEC on long-term remediation and the state agency will determine when the cleanup work is complete.
Ruiz said the spill is an rare occurence and added that 99 percent of crude oil and petroleum products delivered by the pipeline reach their destination safely. She said Kinder Morgan’s spill rate is one third of the industry’s average, at 6.8 barrels per-billion-barrel miles over the last three years compared to 23.5 barrels per-billion-barrel miles.
Opponents contend that even one spill or leak like the one in Belton is too many. They cite a list of dozens of similar instances over the past decade or so in pipelines around the country, some of which happened in pipelines operated by Kinder Morgan. They say the company has not sufficiently proved there is a need for the pipeline in Georgia and add that the environmental threats negate any potential benefit they provide.
Kinder Morgan is awaiting the Georgia Department of Transportation’s decision on its application for a certificate of need and benefit. If granted, the certificate would allow it to use eminent domain to condemn private property for pipeline use.
The company plans to move as much as 167,000 barrels per day through the $1 billion Palmetto Pipeline, which it says will ensure the area is continuously served with gasoline during inclement weather conditions like hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning storms because pipelines will not be directly affected by such events.
Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.