HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management has issued a notice of violation to Colonial Pipeline for “impacts to groundwater quality due to a 273,000-gallon gasoline spill on Aug. 14 in Huntersville,” according to a news release.
Several concerned residents are thankful the state is stepping in.
“It seems like they’re really going to intervene on this and really hold them to the line for accountability,” resident Erin Cohen said. “We need that.”
The pipeline has been repaired, and cleanup efforts are underway with oversight by the DEQ.
“We will continue to hold Colonial Pipeline accountable for harm to North Carolina’s natural resources,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan. “This is one of the largest gasoline spills the state has ever had. Cleanup will take time, and we will be there every step of the way to ensure Colonial Pipeline protects public health and the environment during their remediation efforts.”
>> You can read the notice of violation here.
According to the DEQ release, the violations note that the Aug. 14 spill “caused the release of constituents of petroleum including, but not limited to, benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene that exceed groundwater quality standards.”
Corrective actions include:
- Restore groundwater quality to the standards established in 15A NCAC 02L .0106 for protection of human health and the environment;
- Submit detailed reports monthly that include soil sampling, surface water and water supply well sampling results, groundwater flow, public water system hook-ups for residents, status of free product recovery efforts, and soil excavation, transportation and disposal records.; and
- Submit a Comprehensive Site Assessment report by January 20, 2021.
The DEQ could take further action, including assessing penalties, if the company fails to meet the deadlines and requirements established in the notice of violation.
>> More information on the Colonial Pipeline spill can be found here.
Officials also said that, out of an abundance of caution, DEQ has directed that Colonial Pipeline sample its onsite monitoring wells for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, because the encapsulate that was used to minimize flammable vapors was found to contain PFAS compounds.
On Aug. 14, local and state agencies and Colonial Pipeline responded to reports of a liquid product smelling of gasoline in Mecklenburg County’s Oehler Nature Preserve near Huntersville’s town limits. Cleanup efforts have been underway since the spill began. DEQ has a process for site cleanup, which includes required sampling/testing and monitoring based on the evaluation of environmental impacts.
To date, there have been 34 recovery wells and 51 groundwater monitoring wells installed, and samples are being collected from both. Soil samples have been collected as well with only those nearest to the leak showing impacts from gasoline products.
Colonial Pipeline has estimated that 96,557 gallons of liquid free product have been recovered.
Colonial Pipeline said it has recovered more than 84,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from its pipeline in Huntersville. That’s about 30% of the estimated 273,000 gallons that spilled on Aug. 14.
The Department of Environmental Quality updated Huntersville town commissioners Monday night about the clean-up process.
The spill contaminated a nature preserve and neighbors told Channel 9 they are concerned about their wells.
At Monday’s meeting, DEQ officials said all of the wells have been tested and no gasoline was detected in any of them.
Commissioners questioned how long the testing and clean-up will continue.
“It’s gonna take a long time to complete the assessment and corrective action for the site, so the monitoring wells and the recovery wells will be there for a while,” said Scott Bullock with DEQ.
He later clarified that it will probably take years.
The company is offering to pay to connect homes within a certain radius of the spill to municipal water. It said Colonial is in the assessment phase and committed to restoring the area, and are working on a handful of reports and corrective action plan about the leak.
We’ve learned that the Colonial Pipeline spill last month in Huntersville is more than 4 times bigger than first reported.
Immediately after the leak on Aug. 14, the company estimated that 63,000 gallons leaked in one of its underground lines along Huntersville-Concord Road near Asbury Chapel Road.
Colonial now estimates that 272,580 gallons of gasoline were released from the pipeline during the incident and only about half of that has been recovered, according to a 30-day report to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released on Monday.
“This is a huge spill,” resident Erin Cohen said. “It brings up more questions as to how they had so grossly underestimated it.”
The town said that two teens discovered the spill while they were riding ATVs in the Ohler Nature Preserve. The leak, which Colonial Pipeline said was due to failed equipment, started in a massive pipe underneath part of the preserve.
The pipe carries gas from the Gulf of Mexico up to the East Coast.
Colonial said that it’s testing the water weekly and has not found petroleum in any residential water wells, which many families in the area say they rely on.
“We feel that we are at risk, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but we do feel that we’re at risk,” Cohen said.
The company has offered to connect residents within the 1,500-foot radius of the leak to the public water system and to pay for the costs associated with doing so.
“Homeowners who have been offered the opportunity to connect to public water are free to decline the offer, and if they do so, Colonial will continue to monitor and test their water wells, at no cost to the homeowners, for the foreseeable future,” the company wrote in its report.
The company also said it successfully implemented measures to protect the closest water source, which is the North Prong of Clark Creek. It drains east of Huntersville and into the Rocky River in Cabarrus County.
The town held a town hall meeting two weeks after the spill, where neighbors voiced their concerns about water contamination. Many told Channel 9 that communication regarding the leak has been mixed and inconsistent so far.
“People here deserve information. They need to understand what’s going to happen with the clean-up and they need a commitment that the company is going to stand behind and help people if their wells are impacted, if there are health issues,” resident Rick Lyke said.
The company said Monday’s new estimate is based on the data they’ve gathered during the weeks after the leak and may be revised again if more information comes in.
“There’s real concern because we still don’t know the actual number ... it’s an updated estimate, they say they’ve recovered about half of the gasoline at this point, that means there’s a lot of gasoline in the ground,” Lyke said.
Colonial has operated in North Carolina since the late 1950s, according to NC Policy Watch.
The outlet said the company has had over two dozen reported incidents, which include three leaks in Kannapolis -- one as recent as 2015.
In 1996, a million gallons of fuel spilled into South Carolina’s Reedy River, according to NC Policy Watch.
It was one of the biggest environmental disasters in the state’s history.
Colonial pleaded guilty to criminal negligence, was fined $41 million dollars and paid $13 million in settlements. The company has also had spills in Alabama and safety and training violations in multiple states.
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