Kids ATVing in a Nature Preserve Found One of the Biggest Ever Gas Pipeline Leaks

Good job, teens. Bad job, energy infrastructure.

This is not one of the North Carolina kids who found the Colonial Pipeline leak. It is another kid on an ATV.Tim Kimzey/AP

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A gasoline spill from the Colonial Pipeline in North Carolina is now one the largest onshore spills from a pipeline in United States history, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality who published the updated figure last week. The new findings were previously reported on by E&E News and the Verge.

The Colonial Pipeline company, owned in part by Koch Industries, operates a 5,500 mile pipeline that transports refined petroleum between Houston, Texas and Linden, New Jersey. According to new data from the company, 2 million gallons of gasoline leaked from the pipeline into the Oehler Nature Preserve near Huntersville, NC. 

The leak was not discovered by Colonial, but by two teens who reported it to local authorities. It’s unclear how long it would’ve remained undetected if it wasn’t for a pair of meddling kids riding all-terrain vehicles through the Oehler Preserve who noticed “a liquid product on the ground with a strong odor of gasoline,” on August 14, 2020. 

While the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality called it “the largest onshore fuel spill in the nation,” Energy Wire News reported that according to records from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, it comes just shy of the 2.3 million gallons of gasoline from Pipe Line Co. storage tank in East Chicago, Indiana that spilled in 1986, and the more than 2 million gallons of liquified natural gas leaked from the DCP Midstream pipeline in Sutton County, Texas, in 2018.

But don’t count the Colonial Pipeline leak out of the race for the title of all-time worst. The data was released days after the Mecklenburg County Superior Court placed Colonial Pipeline in a consent order, requiring the company to pay 5 million dollars, and to provide an updated estimate of the volume of gasoline released within 30 days. As reported by Energy Wire News, this new figure is 30 times greater than their original estimate of 63,000 gallons. Their last updated estimate was 1.2 million gallons.

In other words, there’s still room for that number to grow. Interestingly, according to the Capitol Hill staffers arrested for occupying Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office this week, there’s still time to negotiate climate legislation, too.

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