Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

Pipeline Explodes: State of Emergency Declared in Shelby County

The Colonial Pipeline crosses the southland and up the east coast, carrying gasoline from refineries in Houston.

 

September 20, 2016

Colonial Pipeline

Gasoline can be seen in the pond to the right. In this heavily wooded area, the spill poses a real fire danger.

More than 250,000 gallons of gasoline have spilled in Shelby County, Alabama, after a major fuel pipeline ruptured this week.

The governors of both Alabama and Georgia have declared a state of emergency.

The Colonial Pipeline crosses the southland and up the east coast, carrying gasoline from refineries in Houston.

The spill spans an area roughly two acres in size, with the fumes creating the most immediate environmental hazard. Roads have been closed into the northern end of the 39,000 acre William R. Ireland Sr. Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area which is adjacent to the spill area. Gasoline leaks create a continuing fire hazard, and can enter groundwater sources despite containment efforts.

An emergency response team of 500 people has been dispatched, including both fire fighters and cleanup crew, but according to Colonial, little cleanup has been done so far.

Pipeline spokesperson Bill Berry said "It's not safe for our workers to recover much product off of the pond due to gasoline vapors. It's a challenge for us to do much because the vapors are not at safe levels for human health. "

The Federal Government has restricted airspace above the spill location.

Gasoline prices in supplied regions could rise substantially because of the loss. The states of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina are expected to be the first markets impacted by the shortage. Alabama Governor Robert Bently has lifted Department of Transportation restrictions on the number of hours fuel truck drivers can work each day, so that more gasoline can be brought in via highways. Those restrictions are in place to prevent accidents due to driver fatigue.

Residents throughout the south have been advised to be prepared for significant fuel shortages in the coming months.

Data from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates that the spill is Colonial's largest since 1966, when 22,800 barrels of gasoline leaked in South Carolina.

This spill comes at a critical time for the industry, as the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters continue a months' long protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. A similar leak in the Dakota line could corrupt the Missouri River waters that millions of people and animals depend upon for survival.

As alternative energy sources become increasingly available and affordable, Americans across the political spectrum are questioning whether pipelines are the best answer to our energy needs.

The Colonial Pipeline is the largest gasoline pipeline in the U.S.

There is no "safe" fuel transport pipeline. Eventually, every one of them leaks or breaks. This is one of four significant spills already reported in September*, and it is assumed that many minor leaks, perhaps hundreds each month, are never reported by pipeline owners.

It is quickly reaching the point where the only people who really profit from this kind of fossil fuel extraction, refinement, and transport are those who have financial investments in the corporations doing the work.

It is an outdated system that brings an outdated fuel to Americans who could be happier and healthier if the same amount of money were invested into other options.

*Kern County, CA; Bay Long, LA; Sweetwater, TX

 

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