Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

NWI BP fuel leak could last weeks

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A small break in a BP pipeline that has leaked at least 1,700 gallons of petroleum into sewers in the northwestern Indiana city of Hammond could take days or weeks to pinpoint and fix, officials said Wednesday.

“We’re at the point now where BP is literally trying to locate what could be a pinhole-sized leak,” Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott said.

There’s no evidence any of the leaked material has reached waterways. Officials said it was too soon to determine the extent of soil and groundwater pollution, although initial indications were that the groundwater levels were not endangered.

Crews had removed 1,700 gallons of petroleum from the city’s sewer system Wednesday, McDermott said. Residents first complained of fumes from the leak during the weekend.

It was too early to estimate the total amount that may have leaked, said Sam Borries, the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator for the project.

“We can’t put a number on it, but it’s not a super large spill,” Borries said. “It seems to be rather manageable and contained currently.”

Borries added that searching for the precise location of the break was made more difficult because pipe is encased in concrete. Crews also had to proceed cautiously because of fumes, said Rob Elstro, an Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman.

The pipe carries petroleum that is 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent diesel fuel, Borries said. BP has blocked off a section of pipe that is just more than three miles long and holds up to 99,000 gallons and has begun draining it, he said.

“We don’t expect much more to come out,” Borries said.

The pipe runs from a large oil refinery BP operates in nearby Whiting to a site in Manhattan, Ill., about 35 miles away. The area was all farmland when the pipe was laid in 1947, Borries said. Many homes in the area were built in the 1950s.

“The problem now is it’s literally 10 feet from people’s front doors and they have trucks running right now outside people’s windows,” McDermott said. “If the seepage did go toward the houses, it could be a problem. At this point, we don’t know. Right now we’re just trying to stop the leak.”

One family was voluntarily evacuated from their home because of fumes and BP was paying for them to stay at a hotel, Borries said. BP has offered to pay for other families with homes near the leak site to stay at hotels, he said. No illnesses have been reported.

Borries described the leak as fairly common, saying BP has had similar leaks in recent years. “I’m not sure if it’s any more frequent than any other pipeline,” he said.

McDermott said a similar leak several years ago shut down a major intersection for nearly five months.

EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman says BP has been ordered to pay all the costs for stopping the leak and cleaning up the site.

Posted 8/19/2010




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