DHEC extends deadline for comments on Kinder Morgan pipeline gas spill

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After complaints of poor public notice

By Stan Welch

Unhappy with the perceived failure of DHEC to provide adequate notice of the deadline for public comment on the proposed solution to the 2014 Plantation Pipeline leak near Belton, County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson wrangled an additional week for such comments to be received. That deadline is now December 6, next Tuesday.

Wilson’s displeasure is nothing new, where it concerns DHEC’s public notification procedures. “Ever since I became involved with the sewer and landfill issues more than fifteen years ago, DHEC has had a very poor record of open notification for such procedures. Monday, our county administrator received notice at 10:30 a.m. that public comments on the pipeline situation would close at 5 p.m. that same day. DHEC says they published the notice on their website, but it is a very complicated task to locate that notice. Besides, I have asked repeatedly to be officially informed of such deadlines, and as an elected official, that seems to be a reasonable request.”

The issue at hand is a proposal by Kinder Morgan, owner of the pipeline that leaked approximately three hundred seventy thousand gallons of gasoline in the Cheddar area in 2014, when a repair to the pipeline failed. The following excerpt from the proposed Corrective Action Plan (CAP) presented to DHEC for consideration defines the basic problem.

“The source of residual soil, groundwater, and surface water contamination is from a release of product that occurred at a sleeve on Plantation’s 2-inch product pipeline. The release was discovered on December 8 , 2014. Plantation estimates that approximately 8,800 barrels (369,600 gallons) of product were released. Of this, approximately 4,978 barrels (209,000 gallons) have been recovered to date using high-vacuum extraction equipment from a network of product recovery wells, sumps, and trenches.

The release occurred in an upland area of the site where precipitation recharges the underlying aquifer. Groundwater flows radially from the release point. Impacts to groundwater extend laterally in three directions from the release point: to the north approximately 900 feet into an adjacent hayfield; to the northeast approximately 1,000 feet to Brown’s Creek; and to the south approximately 300 feet to Calhoun Road . Cupboard Creek flows intermittently, indicating that the majority of flow from the Lewis Drive ridge is to the northeast, toward Brown’s Creek.”

Kinder Morgan’s proposal basically touts its efforts to recover the spilled product since then, and its planned efforts in the coming months. Among those efforts, the CAP lists the installation of 98 temporary wells, 20 product recovery pumps 15 product recovery wells, and 2 product recovery trenches to protect Brown’s and Cupboard Creeks. The company also installed seven hard, impermeable booms and ten soft absorbent booms to mitigate impacts in Brown’s Creek, as well as to recover product. They have also excavated approximately 2800 tons of polluted soil.

But the CAP, if approved, would let them manage the remaining contamination of soil and water through less expensive, aggressive methods, including allowing Kinder Morgan to essentially monitor their own efforts.

Wilson, whose district contains the spill site, is allied with the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Savannah Riverkeeper and the government advocacy group UpState Forever, in opposing the CAP and demanding greater efforts to restore the site to pre-leak conditions. She, along with those entities, calls for a total clean-up, including the removal of all gasoline from the recovery wells; more bio-sparging, which is a method of introducing atmospheric air into the soil to accelerate the biodegrading of the pollutants; as well as requiring more extensive and more accurate testing to monitor the effectiveness of the various efforts.

“This proposal, if approved, would basically let Kinder Morgan monitor their own efforts. Given their track record here and across the country, that makes no sense whatsoever. From what I have seen of Kinder Morgan, they are an evil, rogue company. When they bought out Lincoln Energy, I was optimistic. Here was a well financed multinational corporation which promised to be more open and accountable. But there has been no evidence to my mind that they are acting in good faith.”

Wilson has requested periodic reviews of the company’s efforts by the S.C. Environmental Law Center, which has considerable experience with such matters. She has also requested a meeting in January including DHEC, the public, and representatives of Kinder Morgan. “The people in this community have a very jaundiced view of DHEC, based on the way they have been treated over the last two decades or so. They should certainly be included in any further discussions.”

Those wishing to make comments can reach Bobbi Coleman by e-mail at coleman@dhec.sc.gov. The deadline is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 6.