Romeoville Oil Cleanup Could Take Weeks

With no timeline for when pipeline will restart, outage already affecting gas prices

By Jenel Nels and Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010  |  Updated 1:59 PM CDT
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Mission now repair and recovery

Mission now repair and recovery

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After leaking for more than four days, oil has finally stopped flowing from a failed 34-inch pipe, but the primary cleanup effort could take a month or more to complete, officials said.

"Last night we did complete the drain up of the remaining oil that was in the pipeline," said Gina Jordan, a spokeswoman with  Enbridge Energy Partners.  Crews were working Monday afternoon to excavate and remove the broken 12-foot section.

The company said the pipeline was carrying crude oil when it failed last week, spilling about 6,100 barrels onto the street of the industrial park and into a nearby drainage reservoir.  All but approximately 50 barrels have been recovered, the company said.

Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been on-hand for days looking into the environmental impact.

"So far environmental impact has been minimal," said Sam Borries, the EPA's on-scene coordinator.  "We've been able to contain the oil within the retention pond and it has not entered the Des Plaines River."

He said there was no visible oil on the waterways, but said crews would continue to monitor and sample them to ensure they don't get impacted.

Although the leak occurred in an industrial area, there are residential neighborhoods nearby.

"You could definitely smell it," said neighbor Rodney Kelly. 

Jordan said that it's too early to tell what the cause of the pipeline rupture was, but said an investigation would be done.  The pipeline was built in 1968, but age isn't a factor in its serviceability," she said.

Repairs to the damaged segment should take about a week, but cleanup -- including the excavation of contaminated soil and testing of groundwater -- will go on at least through the end of the month and likely longer.

Affected businesses are being compensated.

"The majority of the businesses in this area are, in fact, open today and we're working with those that are unable to be open to try and mitigate any impact to them," said Jordan.

Officials will not give a timeline for the pipeline, which runs from Superior, Wisc., to Griffith, Ind., to restart.

Its closure is already affecting gas prices.  In Chicago, AAA said a regular gallon of gas shot up 7-cents over the weekend.

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