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Published: Saturday, 2/21/2009

Weather may hamper oil spill cleanup in southern Wood County

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Workers from Clean Harbors Environmental Services use booms to contain crude oil that leaked into the Portage River earlier this week. An estimated 650 barrels were recovered. Workers from Clean Harbors Environmental Services use booms to contain crude oil that leaked into the Portage River earlier this week. An estimated 650 barrels were recovered.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

CYGNET, Ohio - Though this week's oil spill in southern Wood County appeared under control yesterday, today's anticipated snowfall is expected to further complicate cleanup efforts.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency expected the cleanup to continue "definitely through the weekend," agency spokesman Dina Pierce said. "There's a lot of cleanup left. There's a lot to do yet."

Officials of several agencies said they were pleased by progress made since the leak was found Wednesday, considering how much oil spilled.

The amount of crude lost hasn't been quantified, but an estimated 650 barrels had been recovered from soil and water as of noon yesterday, said BJ Fischer, a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics Partners, the pipeline operator.

Each barrel holds about 42 gallons, meaning that the equivalent of 27,300 gallons had been recovered, with a lot more to go, Mr. Fischer said.

Crews have been up against the elements from the start, first with high winds pushing around water and ice in Rocky Ford Creek and the Portage River, the two water bodies damaged by the spill.

As temperatures plunged, some refreezing occurred, said Brad Gilbert, Wood County emergency management agency director.

Municipal drinking systems continued to appear free of problems.

All downstream communities were told to remain on the lookout for any signs of contamination.

"Everybody's aware of it," Ms. Pierce said.

The U.S. EPA is performing a wildlife assessment, but no results were available yet, Mr. Gilbert said.

Area roads that had been temporarily closed because of the spill were reopened.

They may have to be temporarily closed again when crews get to the point of removing containment booms from the Cygnet and Pemberville areas, officials said.

Sunoco expects to determine the cause of the leak after excavating a section of the pipe and having laboratory tests performed, Mr. Fischer said.

The company did a helicopter fly-over yesterday with state and federal environmental regulators. Progress was seen since the last aerial assessment Thursday afternoon.

The cleanup is continuing this weekend in hopes of keeping the rest of 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.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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