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Report says California oil spill caused by corroded pipe

19 February 2016

A preliminary report from the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has blamed a corroded pipe for the more than 120,000 gallon oil spill that affected miles of California’s coastline near the city of Santa Barbara last May. Local, state and federal regulators are probing the incident and will release a final report later this year.

Stock image
Stock image

The report said external corrosion on the Plains All American 901 pipeline caused the spill after pumps were shut down and restarted, sending a larger volume of oil through the two-foot-wide pipe at higher pressure. And despite a fall in pressure being noted at the company’s control centre in Texas, the line kept operating for 35 minutes after the leak first occurred.

There were also pump problems associated with the nearby pipeline 903.

The Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches were the worst affected and a large oil slick covered the sea for days. More than 300 dead animals were recovered, including pelicans and sea lions, and tar from the spill washed up 100 miles south near Los Angeles.

Federal and state authorities could issue heavy fines against Plains if it is found to have been negligent.

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