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As beavers get on with life, government probes grind on

Published August 13, 2013 2:07 pm

Willard Bay spill • Details about penalties, other punishment still to be determined.
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Chevron Pipe Line Co. is wrapping up its cleanup of diesel fuel spilled at Willard Bay in March, while government agencies consider fines and long-term monitoring.

Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, said his agency continues to assess the damage done, potential impacts and appropriate penalties.

"We are meeting to discuss the settlement with Chevron on the violations," said Baker, whose agency cited the company for the pollution at Willard Bay State Park on April 12.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency led the emergency response at Willard Bay, and it expects to check the final results in October. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitored migratory birds and other wildlife that might have been in harm's way as they alighted in the surrounding wetlands and the nearby Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

The U.S. Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the federal oversight agency for pipelines that run between states, has yet to say if there will be enforcement action against Chevron, which completed its sale of the pipeline two months ago to Tesoro Logistics L.C. for $355 million.

The pipeline spans about 760 miles, from the five Salt Lake-area petroleum refineries to terminals in Spokane, Wash. The federal pipeline agency had raised concerns about corrosion on the 60-year-old line only a month before the Willard Bay spill.

Most of the 21,000 gallons of diesel had been mopped up from the soil and the Willard Bay Reservoir within a couple of months, and the pipeline was back in service at reduced pressure after failing its first stress test at higher-than-normal pressure.

The leak's main casualties were a few fish and the dislocated beavers, and the traces of diesel found in the water were determined to be below the level of concern. Meanwhile, removing the petroleum from the marshes proved more challenging than expected.

Baker said it probably will be a couple of months before the state has completed its negotiations on penalties.


Twitter: @judyfutah




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