Belton, SC, pipeline rupture caused spill still polluting nearly two years later; SELC files 60-day notice as a precursor to a Clean Water Act lawsuit

One of the largest pipeline spills in South Carolina history has not been cleaned up nearly two years after the rupture, leading conservation groups to deliver written notice to Kinder Morgan and the Plantation Pipe Line Company that a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit is coming.

 

Southern Environmental Law Center attorneys Chris DeScherer and Frank Holleman sent the 60-day notice this morning on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper and Upstate Forever.

“Kinder Morgan is responsible for one of the largest pipeline spills in South Carolina history, yet thousands of gallons of gasoline have not been cleaned up,” said Holleman, a senior attorney at SELC. “A year and a half after the spill, petroleum is polluting this waterway that flows through Anderson County, and the stream banks reek of gasoline. This pollution must stop, and Kinder Morgan must take responsibility for its pollution of South Carolina.”

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.

Company records gathered by SELC indicate about 160,500 gallons of gasoline remain in the soil, groundwater and creeks.

“Kinder Morgan is not doing enough to protect our watershed, and the people who depend on it, from this spill,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper. “There is no record showing they’ve extracted any measurable amount of gasoline since early 2016, despite ongoing pollution that has been flowing from this tributary into the Savannah River for nearly a year.”

Water samples taken by the conservation groups in August revealed contamination in areas not tested by Kinder Morgan as of July, and showed higher chemical concentrations in areas Kinder Morgan did test.

Records show some of the company’s samples were logged from the side of a creek opposite from where the spill happened, and in an area where another creek dilutes the water.

“Kinder Morgan must clean up this spill, the fourth largest petroleum pipeline spill in the history of the Upstate,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever.  “Our Upstate waterways and Anderson County deserve no less.”

Recent testing showed the gasoline is breaking down into hazardous chemicals, including benzene and toluene. The contaminated area is part of the Savannah River watershed.

Federal records cited in the 60-day notice show poor and delayed maintenance has contributed to similar ruptures.

The records show faulty materials, welding or equipment caused more than 60 percent of the Plantation Pipeline leaks in the past decade.

The 60-day notice to Kinder Morgan is a required step before filing a lawsuit.