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Keystone oil pipeline spill cleanup expected to last weeks -officials


Emergency crews work to clean up the largest U.S. crude oil spill in nearly a decade, following the leak at the Keystone pipeline operated by TC Energy in rural Washington County, Kansas, U.S., December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Drone Base/File Photo

Cleanup of the biggest U.S. oil spill in nearly a decade will take at least weeks more, local officials in Kansas said on Tuesday, citing a recent meeting with Keystone pipeline owner TC Energy Corp (TRP.TO).

TC closed the pipeline after the spill of roughly 14,000 barrels of crude was discovered in a creek on Wednesday in Washington County in Kansas. There is still no official timeline for a restart of the line, which will need approval from regulators.

TC and county officials met briefly on Monday.

“They told us they expected to be here for several more weeks,” said Randy Hubbard, Washington County’s emergency management coordinator. “They didn’t qualify what that is.”

TC did not immediately respond to questions, and the company and regulators have not yet identified a cause for the leak.

The 622,000 barrel-per-day Keystone line, which ships heavy Canadian crude from Alberta to U.S. refiners in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast, had received a special permit to run at a higher rate than any other crude line in the United States, and has been doing so since 2017.

Workers have recovered roughly 2,600 barrels of oil and water from the creek, which does not connect to a drinking water source, according to TC.

Washington Commissioner Raleigh Ordoyne said TC’s clean-up efforts have exceeded expectations.

“In a time where nobody stands behind their product, or nobody takes accountability for actions or for a fault, TC Energy has come in and taken care of business,” Ordoyne said.

“They’ve got boots on the ground 24/7 and I couldn’t imagine this cleanup going any better.”

Jeanette Stamm, 78, who owns pasture land two miles (3.2 km)from the spill site, said she is concerned about whether crews can remove all the oil from Mill Creek and whether crude could seep into the aquifer.

“I hope (the area) will all be put back the way it was. I don’t know if it ever will be.”

Hubbard said TC has assured the county that oil will not reach the drinking water table or other water sources.

Light rain fell in Washington County on Tuesday morning but was expected to clear later in the day, according to the National Weather Service.

“They’re using large equipment out in fields that are muddy, so undoubtedly it will slow things down,” Hubbard said.

The number of personnel from TC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state agencies and the county numbered more than 300, the EPA said on Tuesday.

There has been no additional impact from the spilled oil since Friday, the date of the EPA’s previous update, the agency said.