State fines Olympic Pipe Line for diesel spill
by Woodinville Weekly staff
The Washington Department of Ecology fined the Olympic Pipe Line Company $7,000 for spilling at least 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel on Mar. 23 into a seasonal tributary to Spencer Creek, which flows into the Kalama River, in Cowlitz County.
The spill occurred when the company's pipeline ruptured following soil movement caused by prolonged heavy rains. DOE investigators found several dead Coho salmon and noted damage to stream habitat and also ordered Olympic Pipe Line to take specific actions to improve the company's ability to respond to multiple high-risk sites.
"When this spill occurred, several areas of pipeline were under stress from gradual soil movement due to the rains," said Eric Heinitz, supervisor of DOE's spill response activities in southwest Washington. "The company was not prepared to simultaneously respond to all of the high-risk sites. To prevent this problem in the future, we are requiring Olympic Pipe Line to develop a plan for addressing multiple high-risk situations at the same time."
The DOE's investigation found that a geological contractor hired to inspect the site near the rupture notified Olympic of land movement there one month before the pipeline broke. A neighboring landowner also informed Olympic Pipe Line of ground movement near the pipeline breakage on several occasions beginning last fall. The company had no record of the neighbor's phone call.
According to the administrative order issued last week, within 30 days the company must:
"We're quite anxious to work with Ecology to help improve our system," said Frank Hopf, vice-president and manager of Olympic Pipe Line Company. "We're willing to work with them with any suggestions they have."
- Develop a policy describing how reports of emergencies are managed;
- Describe how damaged sites are ranked to determine priorities for repair work;
- Develop a policy and management practices for responding to multiple sites requiring immediate attention;
- Develop a list of employees and contractors that have the expertise to respond to different types of events that could lead to spills from the pipeline.
Hopf says the company learns from each of these incidents, and while it's "unfortunate that some product spilled in the creek, we can design those concerns out of the project in Eastern Washington."
Under good circumstances, Hopf said the company can detect a 1 percent leak, which can amount to 3,780 gallons.
"There are limits with the technology currently available, even with state-of-the-art technology," Hopf said. "We rely on people being aware of our presence and having the phone number nearby."
In June, a break in the pipeline near Everett led to a spill of gasoline and diesel fuel. The DOE expects to complete a damage assessment on the Everett spill and announce any penalties related to it later this month.
Olympic Pipe Line Company is still undergoing a SEPA NEPA process for their proposed Cross Cascade Pipeline, which would run from north of Woodinville to Pasco.
Jeff Switzer contributed to this report.