• Oil Spills Pose Threat to Human Drinking Supplies
  • December 10, 2014 | Author: Stephen J. Burg
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • The latest in a series of oil spills has citizens concerned about the safety of their water supplies. The most recent leak was reported by the Daily Beast, revealing a highly flammable oil byproduct had been flowing into Seattle's water. The incident resulted from improper containment at the Tesoro Anacortes rail facility, which allowed the hazardous byproduct to leak out for a year before regulators became aware of the problem.

    The news source acquired the Northwest Clean Air Agency's enforcement report by an open-records request and learned a faulty pipe connection was the source of the problem. This led to hydrocarbon vapors being produced within the facility's stormwater system.

    The NWCAA is an air-quality control agency established under the Washington State Clean Air Act. The agency's engineer, Toby Mahar, who conducted the inspection of the Tesoro rail facility, told the Daily Beast the vapors emitting from the facility were in high concentrations, but those inside the company's system were not measured.

    As Mahar explained to the news source, volatile vapors form when crude oil is transferred into the facility pipeline system. Later, those vapors condense into a liquid and are stored briefly before being delivered to a nearby crude refinery. However, due to the flaw, those vapors were sent into a stormwater system, which couldn't handle the byproduct, and were vented from the facility into the water supply.

    Not the only facility leaking oil
    While this is certainly a problem for the people residing near the incident, this is not the only oil spill to happen in recent months.

    According to Eco Watch, a Utah oil spill entered the Colorado River water supply in May. The spill occurred about 50 miles north of Moab, Utah. The news report stated 100,000 to 125,000 gallons of oil leaked from an old well onto lands near the Green River, which is the largest tributary to the Colorado River.

    It took less than two days for thousands of gallons of oil to contaminate the water supply of millions of residents. A rainstorm only made matters worse, as John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper, told Eco Watch.

    "Even a child would look at the swollen Green River and know the oil had moved quickly downstream," Weisheit said. "It's absolutely ridiculous no one traveled downstream to look for oil."

    Eco Watch reported that rather than searching downstream, officials presumed little oil had entered the river and issued statements to the Utah press claiming there was little spillage into the Colorado River supply.

    Peter Nichols, national director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, expressed his frustrations to the news source regarding the issue.

    "This pattern of cavalier mistakes and media denials on the part of Utah officials in handling this oil spill is troubling" said Nichols. "It is a true sign of things to come considering Utah's 'open for business' policy for dirty energy projects. This incident makes it clear that the residents of Las Vegas and Los Angeles cannot trust Utah officials to keep their water supply clean."

    Colorado's only scenic river
    Another incident happened in June, when a 7,500-gallon storage tank of crude oil drained entirely into Colorado's scenic Cache La Poudre, the state's only designated national wild and scenic river. The report came from RT New source, which stated the disaster occurred at the Noble Energy facility near Windsor, Colorado.

    The incident was blamed on spring flooding, which caved in a storage tank containing 178 barrels of the crude oil. The pressure caused a discharge valve to break and the oil flowed into the river, polluting water and vegetation for several hundred miles.