Plantation Pipe Line has been fined $725,000 for a 2003 petroleum spill in Madison County, along with spills in North Carolina and Virginia.
The company has also agreed to make $1.3 million in safety improvements.
While a Plantation representative said last year that the company has done everything it can to clean up the Madison County spill, a local pipeline watchdog leader says the fine is far from enough.
“This fine is a drop in the bucket for Plantation Pipe Line’s chemical trespassing in Madison County given their tremendous profits made at the expense of natural resources that do not belong to them,” said Jill McElheney in an email.
McEleney is the leader of the local watchdog group Citizens Organized for Pipeline Safety (COPS), which monitors safety issues concerning three major pipelines that run through Madison County. COPs has pushed for a pipeline notification system to help keep county citizens informed about pipeline activity in the county.
In 2003, Plantation leaked 33,000 gallons of petroleum at its booster station in the Neese area off Hwy. 106. A block valve on the northern side of an unmanned pump station malfunctioned, releasing the petroleum.
A mobile home park sits next to the pump station and right on top of the pipeline, but the spill contaminated no residential drinking water, according to a study by Kinder Morgan, Plantation’s parent company.
Kinder Morgan representative Greg Dempsey met with COPS members in Colbert Grove Baptist Church last November to answer questions about the spill.
He said the company tests 23 wells on the contaminant site at least twice a year.
“Luckily for us our groundwater flow was away from where everyone was living, which was very fortunate on this site,” Dempsey told COPS members last year. “That does not always happen.”
Dempsey said the company took action to remediate petroleum released into a neighboring tributary.
“There were impacts at the head of this stream,” said Dempsey. “So, we went in and tried to put in ways to keep the product from hitting that stream. Because once it hits that stream, that’s very bad. … So, we set up a system where we’d pump the groundwater and treat it to acceptable standards and then discharge it back down to the stream. We’re discharging down to drinking water standards. So, it’s very good quality.”
McElheney said she isn’t sure that Kinder Morgan will pay the fine, because “history has shown otherwise,” she contends.
She also says Madison County and other communities in the path of pipelines aren’t seeing enough in return, given the environmental dangers she says these pipelines pose.
“It is a significant point to make that communities who day in and day out place themselves in jeopardy for Kinder Morgan operations are not rightly compensated for their losses,” she said.