Colonial Pipeline Increases Estimate of Gasoline Spilled in North Carolina

New data shows the amount of gasoline released in Mecklenburg County’s Oehler Nature Preserve exceeds Colonial Pipeline’s 1.2-million-gallon estimate, leading the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to require additional action from the pipeline company, according to the department.

DEQ will pursue appropriate enforcement actions based on the continuing investigation and remediation activities.

A Colonial Pipeline spokesperson said each volume estimate Colonial has provided since discovering the release has been based on the best available data at that time.

"That said, while the estimated release volume likely will be revised as a result of this new data, we will continue to follow the science and communicate what we find with the public and our regulators. Our commitment to remediating this location and deploying the required resources to do so safely remains unwavering. We will be here for as long as it takes to safely remediate this area," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

As of April 15, Colonial reported 944,400 gallons of gasoline (free product) and 1.15 million gallons of petroleum-contact water have been recovered from the site since the release was discovered on Aug. 14, at a rate of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of free product per day. Colonial has reported no petroleum constituents in drinking water well samples within the sampling radius to date. However, based on recovery rates and totals, DEQ raised concerns about the accuracy of the estimated volume and the modeling it was based on.

“It is unacceptable that for eight months Colonial Pipeline has been unable to provide a reliable accounting of the amount of gasoline released into this community,” said DEQ Secretary Dionne Delli-Gatti. “We will take all necessary steps and exercise all available authority to hold Colonial Pipeline accountable for what has become one of the largest gasoline spills in the country.”

As the responsible party, Colonial Pipeline is required to provide an accurate estimate of the amount of product released. On April 15, Colonial verbally informed DEQ that the 1.2-million-gallon estimate was no longer accurate and that the model used was no longer appropriate. DEQ is requiring Colonial to provide: a revised estimate of total product volume released to the environment, the specific model/predictive calculation selected and reasoning for the selection, as well as all related calculations, data, assumptions, sensitivity, and calibration information and results.

Since the spill was reported, DEQ has required Colonial Pipeline to take all appropriate actions to protect the community and will continue to do so throughout the cleanup process. DEQ closely monitors the progress of the site investigation and cleanup activities through onsite inspections and meetings. In addition, DEQ’s Division of Air Quality, in coordination with Mecklenburg County Air Quality, has installed air monitoring equipment onsite for sampling and analysis.

For more information from DEQ, click here. For more information from Colonial Pipeline, click here. 

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