... Plains Begins Replacement Work on Ruptured Pipeline  

Plains Begins Replacement Work on Ruptured Santa Barbara Pipeline

Workers have begun to dig up a pipeline that has spilled crude oil along the coast of Santa Barbara County, California, as crews continue cleanup efforts.

May 26 marked one week since the pipeline rupture on a 24-in. pipeline from Las Flores to Gaviota, Line 901, owned and operated by Plains All American Pipeline LP. Company representative Rick McMichael said the company is working on executing a plan approved by PHMSA and Unified Command for uncovering and removing the affected segment of pipe.

“We cannot express enough how much we regret the disruption this incident has caused,” McMichael said. “We are steadfastly focused on cleaning up this area as quickly as possible.”

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At the release site, the company has removed substantially all of the oily soil and placed it in bins with the exception of the immediate area adjacent to the affected portion of the pipeline. Plains began the process of uncovering the pipeline on May 26, but McMichael said the company does not yet have an estimate for when it will be replaced. As soon as Plains removes the affected portion of pipe, the company will install a new section to allow it to empty the remaining oil from the pipeline.

“As Plains removes the affected section of the pipe, protective measures will be taken to ensure any oil residue in the pipeline is captured and that the pipeline is wrapped to preserve its conditions during transport,” McMichael said. “The affected section of pipe will be sent to an independent, third-party laboratory for metallurgical testing to aid in the investigation into the cause or causes of this unfortunate accidental release.”

The final report is expected to take weeks or months to complete and will be provided to PHMSA.

The Refugio Oil Response Unified Command has 956 people working together in support of the May 19 pipeline rupture and resulting oil spill. The amount of released oil is yet unknown.

Initial reports indicate the released oil reached a culvert leading to the Pacific Ocean. As a result, the spill has impacted ocean water and the shoreline. Following the incident, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued a state of emergency for Santa Barbara County due to the effects of an oil spill near Refugio State Beach.

“This emergency proclamation cuts red tape and helps the state quickly mobilize all available resources,” Brown said in a May 20 statement. “We will do everything necessary to protect California’s coastline.”

State oil spill, wildlife, emergency services and environmental field response personnel were dispatched and are working with local government first responders in Santa Barbara County as part of the Unified Command established by federal agencies.

Plains shut down the flow of oil in the pipeline and has initiated its emergency response plan. The culvert has been blocked so no additional oil is reaching the water. Plains is working with local officials and first responders on site to begin clean up and remediation efforts.

There are 16 boats working on cleanup operations, and crews have removed more than 10,000 gallons of oily water mixture, while Unified Command SCAT teams continue to comb the 7.8 miles of affected shoreline. As of May 26, cleanup crews have removed 310 cubic yards of oiled vegetation, 760 cubic yards of oiled sand and 2,610 cubic yards of oiled soil.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation have closed Refugio State Beach and El Capitán State Beach until further notice, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife closed impacted fisheries, prohibiting the take of finfish and shellfish in the area.

As of May 25, eight birds have been found affected by oil and four have died, resulting in a total of 25 live birds found affected by oil and 13 that have died since the response began.  In addition, eight live mammals have been found affected by oil and two have died, resulting in a cumulative total of 18 mammals found affected by oil and eight that have died.

For the safety of the cleanup crews and the public, Canada de Alegria to Coal Oil Point fisheries still remain closed until further notice and a safety zone is currently in effect around the fisheries, which extends from west of Coal Oil Point to west of Gaviota State Beach.

A Federal Aviation Administration flight restriction has been established in the area of the response. Aircraft not directed as part of the response may not enter the airspace of Refugio State Beach. The restriction encompasses a five-mile radius around the park with a 1,000-ft ceiling. This includes the use of drone aircraft.

The public is advised to avoid contact with the oil and to keep pets away from the area where product has accumulated. In addition, they should not to attempt to rescue oiled wildlife. Untrained individuals who attempt to rescue wildlife may cause more harm than good and may injure themselves in the process. If oiled animals are scared back into the water by pets or people, their chances of survival decrease dramatically.

Plains will continue to provide updates on the response effort as more information is made available. For the most up-to-date information throughout the response or to make direct inquiries, please visit plainsupdate.com. A claims and information number has been established at (866) 753-3619.

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