DEQ issues permit allowing Colonial Pipeline to move treated water to creek

HUNTERSVILE, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit to Colonial Pipeline as part of the clean up process for the nation’s largest onshore fuel spill.

It comes nearly three years after an estimated 2 million gallons of gasoline spilled into the Oehler Nature Preserve near Huntersville.


Colonial Pipeline had asked state regulators for the permit to allow safely treated water from the spill to be moved from the nature preserve to a nearby creek.

The DEQ did make revisions to Colonial’s initial permit request after asking for public input. Those revisions include increasing monitoring requirements through the process to protect the local ecosystem.

State Senator Natasha Marcus, who represents Huntersville, said she pushed the DEQ to add the revisions.

“I know there’s people who feel concerned about treating water right there so close to their homes,” she said. “Is it safe?”

Sen. Marcus said the permit could speed up the process.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “The cleanup has been too slow, but we want it done right.”

Two teens discovered the spill on Aug. 14, 2020 while they were riding ATVs in the 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 through the East Coast.

Last year, Colonial Pipeline agreed to a consent order which acknowledges its sole accountability for the spill. The company also agreed to specific remedies and to pay $4.75 million in civil penalties.

As for when they’ll start moving the water, Colonial Pipeline said it does not yet have a date planned because they need a few final permits to begin building the treatment system.

One man told Channel 9′s Anthony Kustura the area has been a construction nightmare since the spill was discovered. He’s hoping the new plan will eventually give the area some peace and quiet.

“It’s just going to be more construction, but I guess it’s better than having the big trucks all the time,” he said.

In a statement, Colonial said the move will enable them to speed up product recovery, limit underground migration, and minimize traffic on the roads.

Colonial shared the following statement with Channel 9 about the permit:

“Local water treatment and the discharge of treated water authorized by this permit will allow for the full operation of Colonial’s hydraulic control well system. We appreciate the NCDEQ’s thorough permit review and decision, which will enable us to speed up product recovery, limit underground migration, and minimize truck traffic on public roadways.

“We continue to work with other authorities and partners to secure the final permits and authorizations needed to construct and operate the proposed water treatment system. Our focus remains on safely recovering product and remediating the site, and we will continue working closely with environmental agencies and local leaders to ensure our operations meet or exceed regulatory requirements.”

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