Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Oil Spill in Utah

While most of the media attention has gone to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there was another oil spill in Utah, this time caused by a ruptured Chevron pipeline.

The spill, first spotted on Saturday morning, poured 33,600 gallons of crude oil into a creek on the eastern edge of Salt Lake City, near the University of Utah campus. Emergency crews stopped the oil before it reached the lake, but not before the crude coated about 200 birds....

Investigators found a hole roughly the size of a quarter in the top of the pipeline, where it runs through Red Butte Canyon. The breached section of pipe lies underground, inches away from a metal fence post outside an electrical substation, and Chevron investigators believe that an electrical arc from the fence may have created the hole. The cause of the arc, however, remains under investigation.

Although it may have started Friday night, the spill came to light around 6:50 a.m. Saturday, after neighbors noticed the smell of petroleum in the air. Oil was found streaming through Red Butte Creek, which feeds into the Jordan River and, eventually, the Great Salt Lake.

Chevron shut off the pipeline east of the rupture, stanching the flow of crude. But by then, the oil had already contaminated the creek banks and some of the waterfowl living there. Oiled birds were taken to Hogle Zoo for cleaning.
The Salt Lake Tribune has a gallery of birds being cleaned. All of the photos show ducks or geese. The site also has a map showing where the spill occurred.

Update: Thanks to reader Elizabeth for pointing out that some oil has already been detected in Great Salt Lake wetlands.