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Published: Saturday, 3/25/2006

Gasoline spillage estimate doubled

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A 50-year-old BP Inc. pipeline in West Toledo that split apart Thursday has leaked almost twice as much gasoline as originally was thought.

BP yesterday raised the estimated total for the gasoline release to 4,200 gallons. It initially estimated 2,200 gallons.

Operators promptly shut off pressure after diagnosing the problem, but couldn't account for what was still in the line and in the process of seeping out until yesterday, said Greg DeBrock, incident commander and Midwest district manager for BP Pipelines North America Inc.

The spill, from a six-inch-wide pipe, was discovered at 4 a.m. Thursday along Laskey Road, between Bennett and Tractor roads.

Although the spill is now under control, additional cleanup and assessment work likely will cause periodic lane closings along eastbound Laskey this weekend, officials said.

The overall cleanup likely will continue well into next week. Shantee Creek and Silver Creek, which flow into Lake Erie in Michigan, will be monitored for months, Mr. DeBrock said.

John Gulch, U.S. EPA on-scene coordinator, said that contractors will probe sediment throughout the weekend in hopes of determining the depth and expanse of the soil contamination. Polluted soil will be removed by BP, he said.

It won't be known until those tests are done whether any gasoline seeped deep enough to pollute groundwater.

That which got into the creeks formed enough of a sheen to be secured by containment booms. It is in the process of being vacuumed out, Mr. Gulch said.

Though officials have their game plan in place for fixing the pipe, getting it back into operation, and cleaning up the mess, they're still at a loss over how the rupture occurred.

BP has records that can prove it ran a "smart pig" monitoring device through that pipeline in 2002, within the five-year time frame required by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety. No problems were identified with the pipe's integrity during that last examination, Mr. DeBrock said.

BP will send the ruptured pipe to a metallurgical laboratory to see if tests on the metal will reveal the cause, Mr. DeBrock said.

Air monitoring will continue until the cleanup is done, although fumes from the spill have not yet posed a health threat. "They're not picking up anything," Mike Gerber, Ohio EPA emergency response coordinator, said.

The cracked segment is part of a 14-mile pipeline between BP's Toledo Refinery in Oregon and a distribution terminal on Hill Avenue in South Toledo.

A hairline crack that was 22 inches long was found, Mr. DeBrock said.

The pipeline is six feet underground.

It was not ruptured by any digging activity, Mary Caprella, BP spokesman, said.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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