Coast Guard: Most fuel spilled from tank farm un­re­cov­er­able


Less than 20 per­cent of a 461,000-gal­lon ga­so­line spill in Texas dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey was re­cov­ered by the com­pany re­spon­si­ble, while the rest evap­o­rated or soaked into the ground, a U.S. Coast Guard of­fi­cial said Thurs­day.

Only a mi­nor amount of the spill ap­peared to have es­caped the Mag­el­lan Mid­stream Part­ners stor­age tank farm in Galena Park, said Coast Guard Lt. Com­man­der Jarod Toczko. It’s the largest spill re­ported to date from the storm that made land­fall in Texas last month.

The Tulsa-based com­pany re­ported re­cov­er­ing about 2,000 bar­rels, or 84,000 gal­lons, of ga­so­line in the days af­ter the Aug. 31 spill, Toczko said. It’s un­known how much of the fuel evap­o­rated and how much seeped into the ground.

“We know how much spilled, but it’s dif­fi­cult to say the ex­act amount evap­o­rated,” he said.

Ga­so­line is more volatile than oil, mean­ing it evap­o­rates more quickly af­ter it’s spilled. It’s also more likely to catch fire and can more rapidly pen­e­trate the soil and po­ten­tially con­tam­i­nate ground­wa­ter.

Mag­el­lan spokesman Bruce Heine says a cleanup of con­tam­i­nated soil at the com­pany’s fa­cil­ity should be com­pleted within a few weeks. He es­ti­mated that less than five gal­lons of fuel reached a small wa­ter­way ad­ja­cent to the com­pany’s prop­erty that drains into the Hous­ton Ship Chan­nel. The rest was con­tained on-site.

“Al­though we do not have an es­ti­mate of the to­tal vol­ume of soil that we will re­move and re­place at this time, the project will com­ply with all laws and reg­u­la­tions,” he said.

The As­so­ci­ated Press has iden­ti­fied more than 30 fuel and chem­i­cal stor­age tanks that failed dur­ing the storm and re­leased more than 600,000 gal­lons com­bined of crude oil, ga­so­line and other chem­i­cals.

Two stor­age tanks failed in the Mag­el­lan case. Ini­tial in­di­ca­tions sug­gested the mas­sive tanks floated off their foun­da­tions as flood­wa­ters swamped the com­pany’s tank farm, Toczko said. That’s what hap­pened at tank farms in Louisiana dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, when nu­mer­ous stor­age tank fail­ures spilled mil­lions of gal­lons of fuel into flood­wa­ters.

Mag­el­lan has said only that the spill was “re­lated to flood­ing as­so­ci­ated with the hur­ri­cane.” Heine said Thurs­day that the cause re­mained un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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