State environmental regulators have issued a violation notice to the City of Whitesburg’s water treatment plant after problems surfaced during a diesel spill into the North Fork of the Kentucky River.
The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection gave the notice on Feb. 18 to Whitesburg’s water treatment plant.
According to Division of Water spokeswoman Allison Fleck, the notice says actions that could have stopped the fuel from passing through the plant were not taken and that there were problems with the proper operation of the facility.
The facility is owned by the city, but operated by Veolia Water.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet says the source of the Feb. 15 leak was identified as Childers Oil Bulk Facility, where a remote underground pipeline associated with an above-ground storage tank leaked due to equipment malfunction.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Feb. 19 that state officials say the diesel spill that shut off Whitesburg’s water was an inevitable accident, given the type of underground equipment involved, and that it highlights the need for good planning and safeguards for local infrastructure.
Underground pipes and tanks are known for corrosion and leakage, said Art Smith, the on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
“That’s not unusual for an oil bulk plant like this to have leaking,” Smith said of the Feb. 12 spill. “That was just a matter of time.”
Smith characterized the amount of diesel spilled as “minute” and accidental, not necessarily negligent or deliberate. He told the Herald-Leader that since 2009, Childers Oil has been working to add required secondary containment to its storage sites and inventory. The company also has made efforts to protect underground pipes and tanks.
“They can and will leak. Buried steel piping will leak over time,” Smith told the paper. “There’s a strong recognition now on the part of the agency and Childers Oil that any future buried piping should have some sort of cathodic protection,” an electrical current applied to steel pipes to slow corrosion.
Jon Maybriar, manager of the state Division of Waste Management, which regulates underground storage tanks, told the Herald- Leader it appears the Feb. 12 leak was slow over time, said It took place in an unused underground line associated with a 300,000-gallon above-ground tank. Even though it was unused, every time the line was pressurized, diesel would leak into the ground, Maybriar told the newspaper. The state has ordered the leaky line removed, and tests showed that several underground tanks and lines are not in danger