A gasoline leak discovered by two teenagers in a Huntersville, North Carolina nature preserve was the worst spill in the United States since 2000, according to officials.
The pipeline that runs from Texas all the way to New Jersey was cracked in the Oehler Nature Preserve for an undetermined amount of time before the teens reported the spill to officials on Aug. 14.
According to the Weather Channel’s Ron Brackett, “After initially reporting that 63,000 gallons of gasoline had spilled and most of that had been recovered, the pipeline’s owner, Colonial Pipeline Co., acknowledged in January that 1.2 million gallons had actually leaked from the ruptured pipe.” Over four times more than initially reported by Colonial and one of the worst spills in the state’s history.
It is the largest single gasoline spill in the U.S. since at least 2000, according to North Carolina Policy Watch, which used data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
“Based on this hydro-geological information and the location of the crack on the pipe, we believe the product may have flowed into the subsurface for a period of time, measured in days or weeks, before reaching the surface,” Colonial Pipeline said in a news release.
In September, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality announced it had issued a notice of violation to Colonial Pipeline because of the spill.
“We will continue to hold Colonial Pipeline accountable for harm to North Carolina’s natural resources. This is one of the largest gasoline spills the state has ever had,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan, who has since taken over as head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2000, the Department of Justice on behalf of EPA filed suit against Colonial Pipeline Co. for allegedly spilling 3 million gallons (71,500 barrels) of petroleum over nine states since 1980.
Pipeline corrosion, mechanical damage and operator error resulted in numerous spills since 1980 in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
Between 2000 and 2019, 158,130 gallons of refined petroleum were spilled in North Carolina. Of that, 58,758 was spilled by Colonial, N.C. Policy Watch also said. Colonial has recovered most of the product that was released as a result of these events, the spokesman said.
Last year, the total amount of refined petroleum in inland spills in the U.S. was 1.35 million gallons. Between 2000 and 2019, the total spilled was 14.8 million, or about 740,000 gallons per year. A 2019 study showed that pipeline spills and explosions in the U.S. caused over $62 million in damages.