Fairfax Oil Spill: Cleanup Begins
An emergency cleanup is currently underway as a result of a ruptured pipeline in Fairfax County that occurred Sunday night.
Officials called for a local state of emergency after 350,000 gallons of fuel spewed from a 42-inch crack in the pipe, polluting over 50 miles of the Potomac River.
Decade’s Most Devastating Spill
The spill is said to be the worst in the area over the past decade, forcing residents from their homes, killing plants and wildlife. “We have residue on all the banks and we have some saturation of the grounds,” said Glenn Gaines, Fairfax County Fire Chief.
Dozens of people have temporarily left their home, over 44 animals have been injured and nine have died. “Most of ‘em have ingested the fuel oil which is very toxic,” said Dennis Reed, Chief Animal Warden.
The underground pipeline ruptured behind Reston Hospital and into Sugarland Run Creek which feeds the Potomac River, contaminating the river with more than 100,000 gallons of fuel.
According to officials, scars and dents on the pipe indicate an earlier incident where a third party construction crew struck the pipeline during excavation.
The pipeline, owned by Atlanta-based Colonial Pipeline Inc., has been involved in five major spills in the Virginia area since 1996. The oil company also operates 5,300 miles of pipeline from New York to Texas. A Colonial spokesman says the pipe was inspected after installation and was undamaged at that time.
There has not been an official evacuation, but 41 people have temporarily left their home. “I didn’t expect that much of it get in the river, you know where you could really smell it…but it was heavy in the air,” said John Smith, a local resident.
A sheen of oil is visible on the Potomac and runs approximately eight inches deep. It is advised that residents not boat fish or jog near the Potomac River. “Stay away from it, stay in your home… preferably we’d like you to keep your doors closed,” said Gaines.
At this time, there has been no report of water contamination, but the Fairfax Water Authority has shut down water supply intake valves as a precaution. Residents may experience reduced water pressure until the plant reopens, and are asked to reduce water usage until then.
The estimated cost of the cleanup is said to be over one million dollars, according to Colonial officials.