According to federal records, a severely corroded pipeline ruptured and spilled more than 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel right outside of New Orleans.
The spill was discovered on December 27 near St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. It came from a 16-inch diameter line that’s operated by Collins Pipeline Co., according to documents from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
More than two thousand fish, birds, and other animals were killed as the fuel drained into two artificial ponds. According to Collins Pipeline Co., most of the fuel was recovered.
In October 2020, an inspection of that same 42-year-old pipeline revealed external corrosion spanning 22 feet along a section of the pipe in the same area as the spill. After a subsequent inspection indicated the corrosion wasn’t bad enough to require immediate work, repairs were delayed, and business continued as usual, according to the pipeline agency.
Robert “Trey” Iles, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said that the spill killed 2,300 fish and more than 100 other animals, including 32 birds, 39 snakes, and a few eels and blue crab. He also said that around 130 animals, including 72 alligators, 23 birds, 20 snakes, and 12 turtles, were taken for rehabilitation.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, diesel is highly toxic petroleum that is fatal to fish and plants that come into contact with it. Smaller spills can take just a couple of days to evaporate naturally, but bigger spills can take months.
“It’s especially maddening to learn that Collins Pipeline’s initial analysis deemed the pipe in such a poor condition that it warranted an immediate repair,” said Bill Caram, a member of Pipeline Safety Trust. The organization advocates for heightened oversight of the nation’s network of pipelines that transport all types of hazardous fuels.
The company has since repaired the line and resumed operations, according to PBF Energy VP Michael Karlovich. Collins Pipeline is a subsidiary of PBF Energy. No fines or other penalties have been issued against the company.