Imperial says it may take time to determine cause and quantity of oil spill

It may be some time before it is determined how much crude oil bubbled up to the surface from a small leak in an Imperial Oil pipeline on Indian Road and whether any of the oil made it to the St. Clair River.

Around 8:20 am June 11, a driver on the road reported a strong odour. Oil was found in the grassy area on the Lambton Area Water Supply System property according to Ken Hall of Enbridge Pipelines – one of three companies which have pipelines in the area.

Hall says the Chemical Valley Emergency Control Organization (CVECO) was called and Enbridge, Plains Midstream and Imperial Oil all shutdown their pipelines in the area as workers converged on the area to see what had happened. MOE officials confirm the pipeline which leaked was owned by Imperial Oil.

Booms were set up in the Cole Drain and MOE spokesperson Lindsay Davidson says in an email, most of the oil has been cleaned up from the surface although some escaped. “Some of the spilled oil breached containment booms and entered the Cole Drain, which flows into the St. Clair River,” she says. “Ministry staff are monitoring and inspecting downstream of the spill, and have taken samples upstream and downstream of Cole Drain and of the St. Clair River for analysis.”

The earliest reports of the spill said about five barrels of oil had spilled, about 1,200 liters, however Davidson says the ministry has yet to determine exactly how much oil has leaked.

Imperial Oil spokesman Jon Harding says the company found the pinhole leak in the four inch line which goes from Imperial to the Marcus Terminal the next day and began repairs. The company was also taking away oil-soaked dirt and cleaning up the area using vacumn trucks.

“It’s a small hole,” says Harding. “If the hole was any bigger than that…we would have more of a free flow of oil. This was more like squirting. It was a small hole in a four inch line.”

Harding couldn’t say how long the leak had been occurring in the pipe which likely dates back to the 1950s. Smaller lines, like this four-inch diameter, one-kilometer long pipe, do not have a pressure monitoring system like large pipelines do which would have alerted the company to the leak as it occurred.

Harding says it will be some time before they can say exactly how much oil was spilled. “We have to make sure it is cleaned up first before we make the calculation to determine how much crude oil leaked,” says Harding. “Our focus is to make sure it is done properly, done safely and done well,” says Harding.

The Ministry of the Environment and the National Energy Board are monitoring the spill’s cleanup. “Ministry staff have been meeting with the company and other responders to discuss the clean-up and off-site mitigation plans,” says Davidson adding “The ministry is awaiting additional details of the spill.  Once we have received all of the necessary information, we will determine if the matter should be referred to our investigation’s branch.”

– Heather Wright