Three environmental groups, including Greenville’s Upstate Forever, intend to file a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan if it doesn’t finish cleaning up a gasoline spill in Anderson County.
Upstate Forever, Savannah Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center have sent the Houston-based pipeline company a 60-day notice to clean up gasoline that reportedly spilled from its Plantation Pipe Line in December 2014.
The notice is required for the groups to file a Clean Water Act suit against the company. Clean Water Act lawsuits allow both private individuals and groups to take legal action against polluters, regardless of existing state laws.
“Kinder Morgan is responsible for one of the largest pipeline spills in South Carolina history, yet thousands of gallons of gasoline have not been cleaned up,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “A year and a half after the spill, petroleum is polluting this waterway that flows through Anderson County, and the stream banks reek of gasoline. This pollution must stop, and Kinder Morgan must take responsibility for its pollution of South Carolina.”
The pipeline, which was acquired by Kinder Morgan in 2000, spilled nearly 369,600 gallons of gasoline on a 365-acre property near Lewis Drive near Belton in rural Anderson County, according to the law center.
The environmental groups estimate that about 160,500 gallons of gasoline remain in the soil, groundwater and area streams.
“Kinder Morgan is not doing enough to protect our watershed, and the people who depend on it, from this spill,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper. “There is no record showing they’ve extracted any measurable amount of gasoline since early 2016, despite ongoing pollution that has been flowing from this tributary into the Savannah River for nearly a year.”
Melissa Ruiz, a spokeswoman for Kinder Morgan, said the pipeline company “has taken full responsibility for the spill” and continues a “thorough and complete investigation and remediation of the site in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
“Our investigation and remediation efforts to date have achieved significant measurable progress, and we have submitted a corrective action plan to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control,” Ruiz said.
The company also listed a series of actions and investigations it has performed. Kinder Morgan currently submits monthly reports to DHEC. It spent $4.3 million through September for remediation and repairs. So far, Kinder Morgan has recovered 209,059 gallons of product and collected and properly disposed of about 2,800 tons of petroleum-impacted soil.
The company also completed a Comprehensive Site Assessment earlier this summer that included the installation of monitoring wells and recovery trenches in Brown’s Creek to reduce downstream effects to surface water.
“I have been monitoring the site since about two months after the spill, and evidence of the gas has been growing for many months,” said Bonitatibus. “Our most recent trip verified what I was seeing: the gas is moving and is not contained. It will continue to leak unless cleaned up. It is currently not a pressing risk to Broadway Lake, but will continue to leak, building up contamination levels in the creek upstream.”
Ruiz said that there is no petroleum sheen on Brown’s Creek. She added that benzene and other contaminants have been found where the groundwater meets the creek but that there are no impacts further downstream.
In the news release, however, the law center argues that some of the water samples tested by Kinder Morgan were logged from the opposite side of Brown’s Creek from where the spill happened, and in an area where an other creek dilutes the water.
Brown’s Creek empties into Broadway Creek and Broadway Lake.
The statement also said that water samples collected by the environmental groups in August revealed contamination in areas not tested by Kinder Morgan as of July, and showed higher chemical concentrations in the areas Kinder Morgan didn’t test.
“Kinder Morgan must clean up this spill, the fourth largest petroleum pipeline spill in the history of the Upstate,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever, in a statement. “Our Upstate waterways and Anderson County deserve no less.”
Kinder Morgan submitted a Corrective Action Plan to DHEC in September. The pipeline company plans to install a Surface Water Protection System with at least 49 biosparging wells at the primary spill site. That system will be fully operational by the end of this year, according to Ruiz.
“It is not uncommon for remediation activities to proceed over multiple years. As we’ve stated before, we will continue these efforts until no further action is required,” Ruiz said in the statement.
Kinder Morgan currently faces a second federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court. Scott and Eric Lewis claim the 2014 pipeline spill has ruined their family’s 350-acre farm on Lewis Drive. Jury selection will begin in late spring.
The Plantation Pipeline delivers about 700,000 barrels of gasoline, jet fuel and biodiesel per day more than 3,100 miles of pipeline, which begins in Louisiana and ends in the Washington D.C. area, according to Kinder Morgan’s website.
Kinder Morgan recently suspended its plans to construct a $1 billion extension of the pipeline that would run from Belton to Jacksonville, Fla., after the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation this year that kept the pipeline company from seeking environmental permits or other licenses until July 2017. That stemmed from property owners’ concerns about Kinder Morgan’s request to get eminent domain.
The proposed extension would have delivered 167,000 barrels of refined petroleum products per day from Belton to Florida. It would have had a $500 million economic impact on South Carolina, according to a study by the University of South Carolina.
For more information, visit southernenvironment.org.