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Corroded pipeline near New Orleans, Louisiana released hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel into the environment, killing wildlife

A major pipeline rupture in Louisiana spilled more than 300,000 gallons of diesel into nearby ponds, killing thousands of fish and other animals before it could be recovered, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The spill took place in the parish of St. Bernard, located southeast of New Orleans, on a line operated by Collins Pipeline Co., according to documents from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Although the leak was discovered on December 27, it was first reported on Wednesday by the PA.

Most of the diesel flowed into two man-made ponds near the pipeline – although some eventually contaminated the soil – and ultimately killed around “2,300 fish and more than 100 other animals, including 39 snakes, 32 birds, a few eels and a blue crab”, Robert Iles, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told the outlet.

Collins Pipeline Co. – a subsidiary of PBF Energy Inc., one of the largest independent refineries in the United States – said it has so far recovered 315,000 gallons of fuel and water from the ponds. The 42-year-old line was in need of repair, but work was postponed. An inspection in October 2020 revealed severe corrosion around the same area responsible for the spill, with 75% of the pipe metal worn at the site. The damage should have caused “Immediate repair” according to the documents, but a subsequent inspection led officials to conclude “the corrosion was not bad enough” to warrant repair and the line continued to operate.

However, in October 2021, Collins’ parent company claimed it was seeking to repair the damaged section, but was awaiting federal approval to do so – a clearance that apparently only came after the spill has already happened. Neither Collins nor PBF were fined for this incident.

While the clean-up operation is underway, some of the diesel is believed to have reached the outlet of the Gulf of the Mississippi River, which state and federal officials have described as a “Environmentally sensitive” waterway. Some of the fuel also remains in the man-made ponds, said Gregory Langley, spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, adding that some 130 animals were “captured for rehabilitation” following the spill.

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According to a representative from PBF Energy, the line was eventually repaired at a cost of around $ 500,000 and resumed operations last weekend. A “Environmental damage assessment” is still under construction.

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