Environmental Groups Plan Savannah River Oil Spill Lawsuit

Benzene Environmental Groups Plan Savannah River Oil Spill LawsuitTwo South Carolina environmental groups have taken preliminary steps to sue a major oil pipeline operator over a 2014 spill that released nearly 400,000 gallons of oil into the Savannah River Basin in the northwest corner of the state.

According to The State, the Savannah Riverkeeper and Upstate Forever accuse Kinder Morgan Energy Partners Inc. and subsidiary Plantation Pipeline of having done almost nothing this year to clean up the 18-month-old spill and stop ongoing pollution in the waterways around the spill site.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing the environmental groups, says the streams around the December 2014 spill site continue to “reek of gasoline.”

The groups filed their intent to sue for Clean Water Act violations last week, giving the pipeline owners and government regulators a required 60-day notice before a lawsuit is filed. Savannah Riverkeeper and Upstate Forever say the action is necessary because federal and state regulators have not forced the cleanup of the spill, which was one of the worst in South Carolina’s history.

According to The State, the notice letter says the benzene, a cancer-causing chemical found in fossil fuels, and other toxins are polluting the waterways.

“Kinder Morgan is not doing enough to protect our watershed, and the people who depend on it, from this spill,” Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper, told The State. “There is no record showing they’ve extracted any measurable amount of gasoline since early 2016, despite ongoing pollution that has been flowing from this tributary into the Savannah River for nearly a year.”

According to the notice, 209,000 gallons of oil have been cleaned up at the site, but at least 160,500 gallons remain. Moreover, the environmental groups say that Kinder Morgan is testing for spill-related pollution in areas least likely to be contaminated.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control told The State that although the water at the spill site contains unsafe levels of petroleum, it does not know of any adverse impacts on drinking water in the area.

Source: The State