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Significant oil leak discovered in Houston suburb after Hurricane Harvey floodwaters subside

18 September 2017

On September 14, the US Coast Guard said that less than 20% of an 11,000 barrel (2 million litre) gasoline spill in Texas after Hurricane Harvey had been recovered, while the rest evaporated or soaked into the ground. The spill was from the Magellan Midstream Partners storage tank farm in the Houston suburb of Galena Park.

Stock image
Stock image

According to the Houston Chronicle, when workers first noticed gasoline leaking from two fuel tanks, they evacuated the area and notified federal and state agencies of the spill.

An initial estimate of the amount of the spill was 1,000 barrels of oil, raised a week later to 11,000 barrels, or 460,000 gallons, making it the largest Harvey-related oil spill.

The Chronicle said that for weeks, residents had experienced a strong smell of gasoline in the air—one resident described it as an “extreme stench”—that they could not escape, but were unsure of the source. Residents were shutting doors and windows to try to keep out the smell, which was so strong it caused their eyes to burn when they went outside.

Magellan said it was unable to accurately gauge the size of the spill until its staff had full access to the Galena Park tank farm. Magellan spokesman Bruce Heine said the company initially gave a conservative estimate of the leaked volume, but that the “unprecedented flood water” from Harvey hindered Magellan’s access to the equipment and the true volume of the spill.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that most of the oil spill did not get into nearby waterways, although a small amount spilled into the Houston Ship Channel. The EPA also reported that they did not anticipate any environmental or health concerns from the spill.

This has been disputed by local environmental groups, some of which claim drinking water in the suburb could be affected by the leak.

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