Cleanup of fuel from a gasoline pipeline that ruptured in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, last month is slow and deficient, state environmental officials warned at a County Commission meeting Jan. 22.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline ruptured in the southern part of the county just a few miles north of El Paso, Texas, Dec. 13. The pipeline breach released about 294,000 gallons of gasoline into the soil and possibly the groundwater around the spill site.
The contamination forced the evacuation of residents near the spill site, many of whom remain in hotels at the company expense.
According to the Las Cruces Sun News, the acting program manager for the New Mexico Environment Department’s groundwater quality bureau sent a “notice of deficiency” letter to Kinder Morgan expressing his concerns over the company’s remediation plan for the pipeline spill and ongoing cleanup efforts, which he told the county commission were inadequate.
“I’ve been encouraging them to dig as much of the material up as possible,” Justin Ball told the county commissioners, according to the Sun News. “The more petroleum-impacted soil that they remove at this time will reduce the long-term impact of this spill.”
Commissioner Sharon Reynolds also criticized Kinder Morgan’s cleanup response, particularly the company’s decision to reopen its pipelines throughout the county before inspecting them to see if any other sections are at risk of a spill.
Kinder Morgan has not determined what caused the Dec. 14 pipeline rupture. The company hasn’t conducted in-line testing of its pipelines in Doña Ana County since 2015 but planned to start using a “pig” – a robotic mechanism that travels through the pipeline – to test for damage and defects.
Kinder Morgan owns 390 miles of pipelines in the county – part of a network of 70,000 miles of pipelines nationwide. The pipeline that ruptured near Anthony transports about 3,500 barrels (147,000 gallons) of gas an hour from Tucson to El Paso.