Pipeline shut down; more impacted beavers found at Willard Bay

Published: Wednesday, March 27 2013 11:07 a.m. MDT

Crews continue cleanup of a Chevron oil spill at Willard Bay State Park Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

WILLARD BAY — Federal pipeline safety officials have ordered the already idled Chevron pipeline that leaked 600 barrels of diesel fuel near Willard Bay to be temporarily shut down because of concerns over hazards it poses.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said it is worried about impacts to the reservoir's fresh water resources because of uncertainty about the cause of the failure.

The concern prompted the agency to issue a corrective action order, which prohibits operation of the pipeline until the director is satisfied that Chevron has met a host of requirements, including development and submission of a restart plan.

The order was issued more than a month after the agency wrote a "letter of concern" to top Chevron officials about the company's failure to complete a final analysis of what caused a petroleum release on the same line on its route in Washington.

Although corrosion on the line caused the petroleum to leak from the 8-inch steel line, the letter noted that more than 2-½ years had passed and the company had yet to determine what caused the corrosion.

"Therefore it is not known if remedial actions taken to date will prevent a repeat of conditions that caused or contributed to the release," the letter said. A spokesman with the federal agency noted that the two incidents do not appear to be related, with the Willard Bay failure possibly caused by a failure of a pipeline seam.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said spill totals from the March 18 pipeline breach could go as high as 27,500 gallons, or 660 barrels of diesel fuel. So far, sampling in an active stream has found trace chemical compounds of contaminants most likely caused by the spill.

Unlike Chevron's Red Butte oil spills from 2010, the impacted stream is in a rural area  where urban contamination from groundwater runoff or other activity would be uncommon, said John Whitehead, assistant director of the Utah Division of Water Quality.

Absorbent booms remain at key locations to prevent any seepage into Willard Bay Reservoir, which Whitehead said has not yet had any significant amount of diesel fuel reach it. Keeping the fuel away from the reservoir has been critical, Whitehead added, since the pipeline failure happened in wetlands just 100 feet away from the bay.

Out of 27 samples taken in proximity of the spill, the DEQ reported that only four of the samples detected trace amounts of hydrocarbons. The four “hits” were found just outside of the containment booms in the reservoir, but should have no impact, according to the agency. 

The spill zone, Whitehead noted, "is a different world," where there have been signficant levels of contamination found through stream sampling.

Meanwhile, a female adult beaver and two pups were rescued from their lodge at the Willard Bay wetlands, bringing the count to six beavers that are now recovering at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Ogden. The latest trio to be captured are an adult female and two young. Another adult wiggled away from its captors on Tuesday.

"The beaver has been described as a mass of muscle," said Phil Douglass, northern Utah's conservation outreach coordinator with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

"Our biologists had their hands on it and with one twist it was gone. … It was well enough to do that," Douglass said, referring to the condition of the animal.

DaLyn Erickson, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden, said the last three beavers to be brought in are in rough shape, having been burned by exposure to the diesel fuel.

"It is almost like peeling a sun burn," she said. "There are tons of hair coming off and their skin as well."

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