TEXAS--Update...Gas Spill Forces Water Shut-Off

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Gas spill forces water shut-off

Fresh supply to be trucked to West Tawakoni residents

03/16/2000 By Brenda Rodriguez / The Dallas Morning News

West Tawakoni's water supply was shut off late Wednesday as tests revealed that contamination from a half-million-gallon gasoline spill is worse than previously thought, authorities said.

Plans are under way to truck in fresh water for residents along the west shore of Lake Tawakoni, although there is no immediate health threat, said Tom Kelley, spokesman for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.

"It's not really a health concern, but it's not water you'd want to drink, because you can smell it and taste it," Mr. Kelley said. The lake provides water for more than 10 cities and water companies, including West Tawakoni and Dallas, which has had its intake cut off since shortly after the gas spill occurred Friday.

Mr. Kelley said tests Wednesday showed that gas containing MTBE - an additive used to clean the air - was present in levels higher than reported earlier in the day around West Tawakoni's intake valves at the lake. More precise levels of contamination weren't expected to be known until Thursday, he said.

The gas apparently flowed into the lake before booms were set up to prevent contamination. The 500,000 gallons of gas poured out of a broken pipeline in a Hunt County wheat field and into East Caddo Creek, which feeds the lake.

Mr. Kelley said he thought that West Tawakoni had about a day and a half's supply of fresh water available. He said the intake would need to be closed for "a day or two, three days for sure" while cleanup efforts continue and the MTBE dilutes.

"We're not taking any chances . . . we're getting them to haul in water starting now," Mr. Kelley said.

Earlier, authorities had thought that there was little contamination of the lake. Most communities had already closed their intake valves at the lake as a precaution.

The small community of Emory on the east side of Lake Tawakoni is still drawing water from it, but Mr. Kelley said Emory's intake is so distant from the polluted area that its water is drinkable.

The contamination has been spreading toward West Tawakoni for several days. Hours earlier Wednesday, authorities had thought that the tedious cleanup had gone so well that it was "down to really kind of a minor spill response," said Greg Fife, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Authorities said then that cleanup efforts were expected to last two more weeks.

Absorbent pads and vacuum trucks are being used to clean up the fuel. Four hundred to 500 gallons are left to be recovered from the major portion of the spill, which was contained behind booms in East Caddo Creek about four miles from the lake.

"We do have a lot of people out there collecting it. It's getting into the labor-intensive phase of it," Mr. Fife said. "They may be cleaning up little by little for over the next couple weeks."

He said the conservation commission will determine in the next few days how to clean up the fuel in the wheat field.

Officials said Wednesday that MTBE in that area was barely above the detection level and posed no health threat.

Dallas usually gets 25 percent to 30 percent of its water from the lake, but city water officials are using the temporary stoppage to do routine maintenance in the area.

Officials with the Sabine River Authority, which owns and operates the lake, said no permanent damage to the lake is expected.

Meanwhile, Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., owner of the pipeline, was given the go-ahead by federal authorities to resume pumping gasoline through the repaired line, which runs from the Gulf Coast to Indiana.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 16, 2000


Hello Dee, I appreciate very much your informative article about the gas spill. We live less than 1/4 mi. from the Explorer Pipeline facility just outside of Caddo Mills, TX. An amazing amount of activity has been going on there what with the tanker trucks making deliveries and so many people coming in from all over the U.S. to coordinate the clean up activities. We have been very disappointed in the Greenville Herald Baner Newspaper for their lack of coverage of the incident. Most people would like to know the long term effects the chemical additive will have on Lake Tawakoni, for drinking and for fishing. We are members of a boat club with camping facilities on the lake. Since we fish and eat our catch we want to know if this stuff is going to make us grow two heads or croak! Why is it that our local news is not informing the public? While dining out today, we met a man that is contracted to help with the clean up. He stated that the additive was at dangerous levels and rising higher daily. When we left we promptly went to buy a paper. Not one word was mentioned about an incident that effects so many. I am so grateful for this web site and for people like you that keep us informed. Thank you again.

-- Etsi Waya (etsiwaya@koyote.com), March 16, 2000.

Thanks for the info. The so called repaired pipeline is flowing to Indiana, where I live. And, the news media will not report any of these mishaps. After all, the news media told us we had nothing to worry about with y2k. Admit they were wrong?

-- Ruth Angell (bar@pbsinet.com), March 16, 2000.

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