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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2005

Broken oil line in Kentucky feeds Toledo-area refineries


CARROLLTON, Ky. - A pipeline that supplies refineries in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan broke yesterday, spilling an estimated 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kentucky River creating a 10-mile slick that crews were racing to contain to keep it from contaminating drinking water.

The pipeline enters Ohio just south of Cincinnati, runs through Lima, and then goes to the Toledo refinery of Sunoco at the East Toledo and Oregon border and to the BP refinery in Oregon, said Olivia Summons, director of public relations for the Toledo refinery of Sunoco Inc.

"We have minimal impact at this time," Ms. Summons said. "This is not our only pipeline."

A spokesman for the BP refinery could not be reached last night for comment.

The pipeline also services Detroit's Marathon Oil refinery.

By yesterday afternoon, the oil spill crept to within five miles of the Ohio River, which several communities in northern Kentucky rely on for their water supplies, said Art Smith, on-site coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Kentucky River is not used for drinking water in the area.

It was not immediately clear what caused the rupture of the pipeline, which carries about 180,000 barrels of crude daily from the Gulf Coast to the refineries in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

The break, 50 feet from the north side of the riverbank, sent oil gushing into the waterway, said Dan Harden, area supervisor for Mid-Valley Pipeline Co. of Hebron, Ky., a division of Sunoco and owner of the pipeline.

The pipeline and the river usually are farther apart, but recent rain and snow swelled the waterway.

Workers battled the slick by deploying a boom across the north-flowing Kentucky River to divert the oil to a confined area where the goo could be skimmed from the water.

Mr. Harden estimated the cleanup could take a week, and said Mid-Valley would pay for the work. He did not have a cost estimate.

The pipeline, which runs 1,072 miles, is checked periodically by sending electronic devices through the line. The section of line that ruptured was last checked in the last few years, Mr. Harden said.

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