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Gasoline pipeline spill in North Carolina nature preserve worse than first reported

Gasoline pipeline spill in North Carolina nature preserve worse than first reported

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CHARLOTTE — A crack in the wall of a gasoline pipeline caused more than a million gallons to spill in a North Carolina nature preserve, more than four times the size a company initially reported, according to a report filed to the state.

In September, Michael Regan, then-secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, said 273,000 gallons of gasoline spilled in Mecklenburg County’s Oehler Nature Preserve near Huntersville. In August, the county had reported 63,000 gallons were spilled. Huntersville is approximately 15 miles north of Charlotte.

But Colonial Pipeline reported to regulators Wednesday that the estimated amount of gasoline released from the underground pipeline was 1,119,982 gallons.

On Thursday, state officials said they ordered Colonial Pipeline in November to recalculate how much gasoline was released. The order came after state staff found the company “significantly underestimated the volume of gasoline released from the spill,” according to a state Department of Environmental Quality news release.

Michael Scott, director of the North Carolina Division of Waste Management, promised a “thorough review ... to determine the full extent of the impact in order to guide the cleanup and protection of public health and the environment.” He said DEQ “will continue to hold Colonial accountable and oversee their cleanup efforts.”

An outside metallurgist is examining why the crack formed, said Angie Kolar, Colonial’s vice president of operations services and its chief risk officer. On Wednesday, Kolar said Colonial Pipeline has recovered 661,710 gallons of gasoline and expects to stay on site “for years” as its wells recover gasoline.

No petroleum has been found in residents’ wells since two ATV riders discovered the spill Aug. 14 and the company repaired the pipe Aug. 19, Kolar said.

According to the company, Colonial pipes gasoline in one of the lines running through Mecklenburg County and diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil in a second line from refineries primarily located on the Gulf Coast. Customers throughout the South and East receive the products through more than 5,500 miles of pipeline.

In December, Regan was selected by then-President-elect Joe Biden to become head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He would be the first Black person to head the agency. He is awaiting his confirmation hearing.

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