A leak in the 42-year-old Collins (aka Meraux) Pipeline has spilled 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel near a St. Bernard Parish levee east of New Orleans, contaminating the water in two artificial or “borrow” ponds and killing thousands of animals including fish, birds, snakes and crabs.
The leak in a rusted section of 125-mile pipeline was found on Dec. 27; however, the PBF Chalmette Refinery, a subsidiary of PBF Energy Inc. of New Jersey, knew the line was damaged for more than a year and delayed making repairs, according to the Associated Press.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officials have been treating wildlife injured by the spill. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, two dozen diesel-coated birds were captured for treatment but just two survived. Workers rescued about a dozen turtles, snakes, and more than 70 alligators.
Much of the soil in the environmentally sensitive area – within the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal between Chalmette and Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge – is now considered contaminated. Fortunately, said Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator Sam Jones, a seawall along the canal served as a barrier, preventing the fuel from reaching adjacent wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico.
History of Pipeline Maintenance Issues
An October 2020 inspection found corrosion in a 22-foot section of the pipeline, which runs from the Chalmette Refinery to a storage terminal in Collins, MS.
One year later, a PBF Energy representative told federal regulators that work on that section had been postponed, even though maintenance work on another area of the pipeline had already been completed. The company claimed the holdup was due to pending federal work approval.
PBF workers have reduced pressure in the pipeline twice before: once just after the corrosion was found and again one year later, when they missed a federal deadline to repair the line the first time.
These efforts were not enough to stop the rusty section of pipeline, 18 inches in diameter, from bursting and causing the catastrophe.
Federal officials issued an order on Dec. 30 for the pipeline to shut down until repairs could be completed, but work is not expected to begin until the company receives the necessary permits.
The Collins Pipeline has been under scrutiny by federal regulators since 2007 via six previous enforcement cases. In 2011, PBF received a warning for not conducting external corrosion tests frequently enough; in 2021 came another warning, this time regarding management problems at the company’s pipeline control room in Texas.
Reasons To Contact a Lawyer for Oil Spill Damages
Diesel is one of the most toxic oil types, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA). While small amounts of it in open water can disperse in just a few days, in confined water like borrow pits, it can lead to high mortality in animals, fish and plants.
People should be wary of diesel spill health injuries too. Short-term exposure to diesel fumes (e.g., while cleaning up a small spill) can temporarily irritate your eyes, skin or respiratory tract, cause dizziness, headache, or nausea. Long-term exposure may lead to more serious health concerns, such as lung cancer, kidney damage, and an increased risk of a heart attack.
Large oil and fuel spills can wreak tremendous havoc and devastate entire communities. Home and business owners can suffer repercussions, including chronic health problems and necessary medical monitoring, clean-up costs, property damage, and land that can’t be salvaged. Knowing these consequences are due to someone else’s negligence makes the path to recovery even more difficult.
If you believe that you or someone you know has experienced injuries or financial losses from negligent pollution or contamination, you should seek legal help from a knowledgeable attorney. New Orleans-based law firm Herman Herman & Katz has extensive knowledge and experience in these complicated cases. Our trial attorneys were instrumental in negotiating the multi-billion-dollar settlement of the BP Oil Spill litigation. Reach out to us anytime at 844-943-7626 or via our online form for a free case review.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.