Cleanup crews continue to mop up a 4,000-barrell oil spill into a four-mile stretch of Tete Bayou northwest of Shreveport, La.
Officials said that the oil has been contained without reaching Caddo Lake, which straddles the Texas-Louisiana state line and provides drinking water for some water systems.
The oil spilled from the Mid-Valley pipeline, a line owned by Sunoco Logistics Partners which carries crude oil from Longview, Texas to Samaria, Mich.
“I would call it a significant size spill,” Bill Rhotenberry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator.
The Times reports that pipeline control operators noticed a drop in pressure and shut down within 20 minutes, Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said.
Three families who live near the site evacuated, complaining of fumes, and Sunoco is paying their expenses.
No oil sheen has been detected on the lake, but it will be monitored by air and boat as the cleanup continues.
Sunoco expects months of cleanup, with 250 contractors now working, wearing flame retardant clothing, hard hats, safety goggles and respirators.
The pungent odor of oil fills the air closer to the work site. Air monitors are spaced throughout the wooded area to make sure volatile organic contaminants, or VOCs, do not cause a health risk.
“The only risk of VOCs is in the immediate area of the oil,” Rhotenberry said. “Out of the spill’s pathway it’s not as much of an issue.” Readings have been low so far.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is investigating the spill.
Shields estimates about 1,900 barrels of crude had been recovered from the bayou through Saturday. Neither he nor Rhotenberry could offer a timeline for full removal, other than said it will take months. A spill from the same pipeline in March in Cincinnati is still in the remediation phase.
Sunoco “understands its obligations well and understands it is liable for the cost,” Shields said.
Soil underneath the oil will be removed after surface oil is cleaned up. Jeffrey Meyers, spill response specialist with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, said the time-consuming task moving forward will be to locate the pockets of residual oil that can become trapped in the soil and even in crawfish holes.
Natural bacteria aids in eating the oil but it’s not as effective in the fall and winter months. So the maintenance phase will include constant placement and exchange of oil-absorbing materials.
Through Oct. 18, the spill had proven deadly to about 66 animals, Shields said, including 30 fish, crawfish and 10 reptiles. A wood duck was rescued and is in the hands of a wildlife specialist that will stay on scene to assist with animal rehabilitation needs.
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