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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

Crews step up efforts to remove oil because of approaching storm

BLADE STAFF
A worker from EQ Industrial Services monitors the pumping of oil from Rocky Ford Creek at Cygnet Road in Cygnet, Ohio. A leak in a pipeline, discovered Wednesday, let thousands of gallons flow into the creek, then into the Portage River. Crews were to vacuum the oil around the clock until the job is completed. A worker from EQ Industrial Services monitors the pumping of oil from Rocky Ford Creek at Cygnet Road in Cygnet, Ohio. A leak in a pipeline, discovered Wednesday, let thousands of gallons flow into the creek, then into the Portage River. Crews were to vacuum the oil around the clock until the job is completed.
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CYGNET, Ohio A helicopter flyover on Friday morning showed crews have made substantial progress in cleaning up the southern Wood County oil spill since the last aerial assessment Thursday afternoon.

The flyover was done by officials from Sunoco Logistics Partners, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio EPA, according to a statement Sunoco issued shortly before 1 p.m. Friday.

More details are to be released at a 3 p.m. press conference at the Wood County Sheriff s Office in Bowling Green.

Most of the oil is now believed to be contained by booms set up in Rocky Ford Creek and the Portage River. Crews are using machines to suck out as much of the pollution as they can.

Sunoco said earlier Friday that crews have picked up their pace in hopes of getting ahead of a storm that is expected to drop 3 to 5 inches of snow on the region Saturday.

More than 100 people are working on the emergency cleanup, trying to keep the oil from contaminating other parts of the Portage and from making its way to Lake Erie.

The spill came from Sunoco s Maumee Pipeline System, which carries about 142,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Lima, Ohio, to Samaria, Mich.

It started sometime Wednesday and allowed thousands of gallons of crude oil to flow into Rocky Ford Creek near Cygnet until Thursday morning. The oil plume has since migrated into the middle branch of the Portage River and made its way to the Pemberville area 15 miles downstream.

High winds complicated early stages of the cleanup, officials have said.

The original story which appeared in today's editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com:.

By TOM HENRY

BLADE STAFF WRITER

CYGNET, Ohio - Residents of southern Wood County can drink their water with confidence, despite a massive pipeline leak that started sometime Wednesday and allowed thousands of gallons of crude oil to flow into Rocky Ford Creek near Cygnet until yesterday morning.

Cleanup crews wrestled with the elusive plume for hours as it flowed from the creek into the middle branch of the Portage River. It was contained last night about two miles south of Pemberville, at a spot about 15 miles from the leak's origin.

Crews were assigned to stay on the scene around the clock until the oil was vacuumed out of the river, according to Thomas Golembeski, spokesman for Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the pipeline operator.

"High winds and the force of the water was making it more difficult for sure," B.J. Fischer, another company spokesman, said. Cygnet gets its drinking water from a well, not the creek or the river.

Dina Pierce, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokesman, said the community's drinking water was determined to be safe after being tested per agency regulations.

The leak came from what's known as Sunoco's Maumee Pipeline System. It carries about 142,000 barrels of crude oil daily from Lima, Ohio, to Samaria, Mich.

Sunoco said it discovered the release at a Cygnet pump station and terminal about 5 p.m. Wednesday.

It was not known how long oil had been escaping from the pipeline prior to that.

The leak from the pipeline was stopped about 11:05 a.m. yesterday after a series of valves were shut down and ground was excavated. Oil continued to pass through farm tiles until early afternoon, Ms. Pierce said.

As the cleanup and investigation into the cause continue today, a Sunoco contractor is expected to begin a fish and wildlife assessment under the auspices of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Mr. Fischer said.

Crews also are to start to determine how much soil needs to be removed, he said.

"Right now, the priority is to contain it to keep it from getting further downstream so they can vacuum it out or skim it out," Ms. Pierce said.

Other agencies involved in the cleanup include the U.S. EPA, the Coast Guard, the Wood County Sheriff's Office, and emergency management agencies from Wood, Ottawa, and Sandusky counties.

Bloomberg News reported the Sunoco pipeline is "one of several sources" for Marathon Oil Corp.'s refinery in Detroit.

Oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products are among the greatest sources of water pollution.

The U.S. Department of Interior says on the Internet that a single gallon of gasoline can pollute 750,000 gallons of water.

The U.S. EPA says a gallon of gas can damage as many as

5 million gallons of water.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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