Hillsborough Commissioners learn environmental effects of jet fuel spill

08/18/11 Matthew Cimitile
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It has been almost a month since a pipeline carrying jet fuel from Orlando to Tampa ruptured, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel into a creek in Mango, fifteen miles east of Tampa.

Alain Watson is emergency response coordinator for the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County. This morning he told County Commissioners, in their role as the EPC board, about the extent of the spill and damages to the environment.

“The final numbers on the amount of jet fuel that was spilled comes to about 820 barrels, which is roughly 35,000 gallons. About 400,000 gallons of petroleum-contaminated water has been collected. The other number I pick out here is 512 deceased wildlife, mainly fish counts, about 500 are fish. That pick up occurred really in the first three days of the spill. We are now seeing reports of fish coming back and other wildlife returning, so things are looking much better now.”

After the initial spill, residents feared the fuel could pollute groundwater where many drew their drinking water from wells. There was also the potential that the fuel, which can be severely toxic, would enter the Tampa Bypass Canal. Watson said that so far testing shows no water contamination.

“Groundwater sampling wells, these wells are being tested weekly. They will continue to test probably from now on it will be monthly, testing of the three portable wells in the area closest to the spill site. Again all the tests have come back showing the groundwater is clean.”

According to minutes on the Environmental Protection Commission website, the emergency response is moving toward petroleum cleanup and wetlands restoration. EPC lawyers have said the county will be entitled to damages from the pipeline owner, Central Florida Pipeline, for personal hours used during the emergency response and funds needed to restore the area.

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