Settlement reached in massive Colonial Pipeline gasoline spill in Huntersville

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Colonial Pipeline and federal regulators have reached a settlement in the massive gasoline spill in Huntersville, and it means Colonial will not go to court -- at least for now.

Two teenagers riding an ATV on the Oehler Nature Preserve along Huntersville-Concord Road last August found the largest gas leak in North Carolina history.

At last estimate, 1.2 million gallons of gasoline spilled from the Colonial Pipeline, but Colonial didn’t know about it until the teen’s report.

According to a settlement between the company and the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the pipeline’s leak detection system never caught it -- and it wasn’t the first time, according to the settlement.

The system also missed other spills in Virginia, Georgia and Alabama.

While there’s no financial punishment for the leak in this settlement, Colonial agreed to evaluate and then improve that detection system as crews continue to clean-up the site.

Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla said cleanup crews will be at the site of the spill for years.

“I think they’re going to have a presence in Huntersville for at least a decade. And that’s mostly due to monitoring and making sure the water is going to be safe, not just for the next year but for the next five and 10 years,” he said.

Most neighbors Channel 9 spoke with since the leak have been concerned about contamination in their water. Colonial maintains that has not been affected, but the settlement does say the gasoline “penetrated the soil and affected the ground water in the area.”

While the federal government won’t sue the pipeline, that could still come from neighbors and the state.

“I’m sure that the North Carolina DEQ will do whatever is in the best interest of our citizens. And if that’s a fine, which is probably likely, then I think it’ll be pretty severe,” Aneralla said.

The other major part of this settlement will force the pipeline to change how it makes repairs, which means the incident that happened in Huntersville could prevent future leaks along the entire pipeline.

Below is a statement from Colonial Pipeline:

“In accordance with our safety management practices, Colonial Pipeline began to implement learnings from the Huntersville incident almost immediately after it occurred. The consent agreement outlines a number of steps that Colonial has agreed to undertake and we appreciate the opportunity to settle this matter following consultation with PHMSA.”

(WATCH: 2 teens recall finding major Colonial Pipeline gas leak in Huntersville nature preserve)

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