Results call into question company’s previous testing and assurances

Newly released test results from the site of a 2014 petroleum pipeline rupture show extremely high levels of gasoline pollutants in the Anderson County waterway fouled by the spill, calling into question the company’s previous reporting.


The testing from Aug. 19 shows benzene, toluene and other chemicals were detected in concentrations far higher than Kinder Morgan had previously reported, and many times higher than would be safe for the environment.

Benzene, for example, was found to exceed standard guidelines by almost 3,000 percent. Benzene is a component of gasoline.

The release of these results, provided to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), comes at the same time the Southern Environmental Law Center alerted Kinder Morgan and the Plantation Pipe Line Company that it would bring a Clean Water Act lawsuit.

SELC, representing the Savannah Riverkeeper and Upstate Forever, sent the required 60-day notice to Kinder Morgan Monday. These new results fortify the case, said Frank Holleman, a senior SELC attorney.

“These results show what we warned in our Clean Water Act notice letter, that Kinder Morgan’s testing for the last year and a half has not reported the full extent of the gasoline pollution from its pipeline spill,” Holleman said. “These striking levels of gasoline pollution are occurring, and have been first reported, over a year and a half after the Kinder Morgan pipeline rupture was discovered.”

The rupture of an aging patch on the 26-inch Plantation Pipeline caused nearly 370,000 gallons of gasoline and petroleum products to leak into an area near Lewis Drive in Belton, SC. The spill apparently went undetected by the pipeline company. It was discovered in December, 2014, when nearby residents noticed plants dying, and smelled petroleum.

The spill was so voluminous it contaminated a layer of earth 14 feet thick.

SELC’s independent testing of the area’s creeks and wetlands in August found concentrations toxic pollutants higher than those reported by Kinder Morgan, and found pollution in places Kinder Morgan did not test.

The notice SELC sent to Kinder Morgan said the company was testing in places that were least likely to contain high concentrations of toxins.

In March, DHEC directed Kinder Morgan to take samples from areas most affected by the spill. Five months later, Kinder Morgan complied. These results came from that testing.

“The Upstate’s water resources deserve better than this,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever.  “These levels of pollutants call for urgent action by Kinder Morgan to stop the flows of gasoline contaminants into Anderson County’s water.”

The new results are at odds with Kinder Morgan’s previous statement.

In September, Kinder Morgan reported to DHEC that only benzene had exceeded “surface water screening criteria.” But these test results show that, in fact, other pollutants have been exceeding standards in Anderson County waters polluted by the spill.

“This spill threatens the Savannah River Watershed, the people that rely on it, and the groundwater,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus. “This is Kinder Morgan’s mess. They need to fully clean it up. And they must be transparent.”