WASHINGTON—A pipeline company and two of its former operating firms will jointly pay a civil penalty of $3.65 million to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act resulting from anhydrous ammonia spills in Nebraska and Kansas, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today. The spills which occurred in 2004 resulted in significant fish kills in surrounding waterways.
Magellan Ammonia Pipeline, of Tulsa, Okla.; Enterprise Products Operating, of Houston, Tex.; and Mid-America Pipeline Company, also known as MAPCO, also of Houston agreed to the settlement in the form of a consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.
In a complaint filed jointly with the consent decree, the United States alleges that Magellan, which owned the pipeline, along with operating firms Enterprise and MAPCO, were responsible for two anhydrous ammonia spills in 2004. The first spill occurred on Sept. 27, 2004, near Blair, Neb., killing an estimated 1,000 fish along North Creek and a golf course pond; and the second spill occurred on Oct. 27, 2004, near Kingman, Kan., killing more than 20,000 fish along a 12.5-mile section of Smoots Creek.
The rupture of the pipeline near Blair resulted in the hospitalization of one individual and emergency responders evacuated homes within a one mile circumference of the break. Additionally, the Kingman rupture resulted in a 40-foot high vapor cloud that was a mile long and resulted in evacuations as well.
The United States further alleges that as operators of the pipeline system, Enterprise and MAPCO violated the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Liability and Compensation Act (CERCLA) by failing to immediately notify the National Response Center about the spills.
"These two pipeline spills were significant and proper notification was not given to National Response Center when they occurred," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today’s settlement will ultimately result in better training of employees and implementation of prevention systems to reduce the possibility of future discharges of harmful chemicals."
"The Kingman spill caused severe environmental damage, killing all fish for more than 10 miles in Smoots Creek, which is one of Kansas’ high-quality streams. The penalty to be paid under this settlement reflects the seriousness of the violation," said Ron Hammerschmidt, environmental services division director for EPA Region 7 in Kansas City, Kan. "The actions the company will take under the settlement should help prevent this kind of spill from happening in the future."
Under the terms of the settlement, Magellan has agreed to spend an additional $550,000 on improvements to prevent or minimize releases along selected segments of its pipeline system, and will establish a program to minimize third-party damage to the system. Magellan presently operatesthe ammonia pipeline, having terminated its operating agreement with Enterprise and MAPCO in 2007.
Additionally, through the consent decree, Magellan has promised to make a series of required improvements in its employee training, leak response procedures, and protocols for detecting and responding to leaks and ruptures.
The consent decree, lodged today in U.S. District Court for the District Kansas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.