Federal Agencies Respond to 50-Barrel Oil Spill by Texas Petroleum in Louisiana’s Delta National Wildlife Refuge

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By Glynn Wilson –

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Coast Guard are working with the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator Office, Texas Petroleum and Forefront Emergency Management to mitigate an estimated 50-barrel crude oil spill in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge 10 miles southeast of Venice, in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

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Delta National Wildlife Refuge: USFWS

A silver sheen was observed by an aerial overflight on May 28. Texas Petroleum Investment Company (identified as the responsible party), and Forefront Emergency Management responded to conduct an initial assessment, though inclement weather prevented a full response, according to a press release.

On May 29, 2014, the agencies and company formed a so-called Unified Command and amassed a clean-up crew to gathered information and evaluate the site to determine the best response to mitigate effects of the spill.

According to the release, they determined the source of the discharge was from a breach in a bulk line buried below the surface of the marsh.

“The breach has been repaired and the line was pressure tested,” the agency says. “The line was flushed with fresh water to remove any remaining oil and will not be used for future production.”

About 10 acres of fresh water marsh in a remote section of the refuge have been impacted by the spill.

“Access into the area is difficult and is limited to flat-bottomed vessels,” the agency says.

The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the Unified Command and supports an in-situ burn to remove the contaminated oil. In-situ burning is a response technique that involves the controlled burning of oil at the spill site.

“The controlled burn is expected to significantly reduce the amount of oil in the marsh, accelerate clean-up operations, and minimize the effect of both oil and habitat impacts to the marsh,” the agency says.

The in-situ burn is scheduled to be conducted on Tuesday June 3. Octave pass will be temporarily closed to mariners and will be reopened as soon as the burn is concluded.

“The burn will be strictly controlled and closely monitored by safety personnel to minimize environmental impact,” the agency says. “To ensure the safety of the public, further safety precautions will be implemented, including comprehensive air monitoring and monitoring changes in wind direction.”

Airboats and scare cannons are serving as the primary tools for hazing wildlife during clean-up operations. The controlled burn is not expected to have any impacts on avian, resident wildlife or marine species. There will be additional clean-up operations after the burn to continue to remove contamination and allow the marsh to recover.

For more information contact Refuge Manager Neil Lalonde at 985-882-2026 or
neil_lalonde@fws.gov

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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