315,000-Gallon Diesel Spill Kills Thousands of Animals in Louisiana

Home Technology 315,000-Gallon Diesel Spill Kills Thousands of Animals in Louisiana
315,000-Gallon Diesel Spill Kills Thousands of Animals in Louisiana
Cleanup work at the pipeline site.
Cleanup work at the pipeline site.
Photo: Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (AP)

A decades-old pipeline spilled 315,000 gallons (1.2 million liters) of diesel into an environmentally sensitive area in Louisiana last month, killing thousands of animals, the AP reported Thursday. The spill happened a little over a year after a safety inspection found that the pipeline was severely corroded—but the pipeline’s owners chose to delay repairs and keep it operational.

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Documents from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which were first reported by the AP, show that a rupture in the Meraux Pipeline was discovered in late December at the Chalmette Refinery in St. Bernard Parish, just outside of New Orleans. (The breach hasn’t been reported until now). Officials say most of the diesel fuel spilled into storage ponds around the pipeline, but some also got into the soil and environmentally sensitive habitats nearby.

There haven’t been any human casualties as a result of the spill, but “thousands” of animals, including 32 birds, 39 snakes, and more than 2,000 fish, are dead, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife. Most of the diesel has been cleaned up, officials say, but the company that owns the pipeline is still working. Dozens of animals, including more than 70 alligators, as well as a collection of birds, snakes, and turtles, were affected by the spill and sent to “rehabilitation.”

The Meraux Pipeline, which transports diesel fuel over 125 miles (200 kilometers) from New Orleans to a storage terminal in Mississippi, is more than 40 years old and operated by Collins Pipeline Co. PHMSA documents show a safety inspection from October 2020 found that a 22-foot (7-meter) section of the pipeline was corroded—right around where this year’s spill was found. That inspection found that 75% of the metal was corroded, which normally would mandate immediate repair. However, Collins decided to keep the pipeline operational and delay repair after another inspection reassessed the damage and allowed it to stay in service.

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