Crude oil line spill evacuations lifted in Bastrop County

The scene of a crude oil spill at 417 Farm to Market 20 near Shiloh Road. July 13, 2017 (WOAI Photo)
The scene of a crude oil spill at 417 Farm to Market 20 near Shiloh Road. July 13, 2017 (WOAI Photo)

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — People who live within a mile of a crude oil spill in Bastrop County can return to their homes after an evacuation Thursday.

The Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management says the rupture was reported around 9:20 a.m. at 417 Farm to Market 20 near Shiloh Road, which is just a few miles southwest of the city of Bastrop. FM 20 is closed and is expected to remain closed until Friday morning.

Originally, emergency crews sent out messages asking people who live within a 2-mile radius to shelter in place. But at 11:05 a.m., Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office said they were evacuating people within a 1-mile radius of the spill site.

A short-term shelter was set up at the River Valley Christian Fellowship, 1224 Highway 71. No one was injured in the incident.

A spokesperson for Magellan Pipeline Company, LP says a contractor was working on their Longhorn pipeline system when he struck the fitting on the pipeline causing the release. The contractor was conducting maintenance on the pipeline, which was in service. The company says the pipeline was immediately shut down. A release sent by Magellan confirmed that 15 houses near the site were temporarily evacuated Thursday.

FM 20 in Bastrop County blocked due to a crude oil spill on July 13, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard)
FM 20 in Bastrop County blocked due to a crude oil spill on July 13, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard)

Magellan says initial estimates indicate around 1,200 barrels of crude oil, about 50,400 gallons, leaked. “Efforts are in progress to contain the crude oil release to minimize environmental impact and to ensure public safety,” Magellan said a statement.

Residents in the area expressed concern about the environmental impacts of the spill.

Local Reggie Smith said he was worried how Cedar Creek and the ecosystem might be impacted. “The only danger and the environmental part is gonna be to the creek itself,” he believes. Smith grew up fishing and hanging out near Cedar Creek.

Magellan stated they are working with environmental specialists on-site to minimize the damage.

“Actions have been taken to contain the crude oil release to minimize environmental impact and to ensure public safety. The oil has been contained in a small area around the pipeline release and no crude oil has reached any water,” the company said in a statement.

The company has sent around 100 employees as well as vac trucks to contain the spill. Magellan also said they would reimburse any costs incurred by residents during the evacuation.

Residents also expressed concerns about how information about the spill was communicated.

“We did get some phone calls, an emergency phone call twice telling us to evacuate, but they were recorded messages and other neighbors have been calling us with the same phone calls, because they didn’t know what was going on, they had no clue,” said Jackie Boatman who was attending to a family member who lives near the spill.

That family member had recently been diagnosed with stage four cancer and was at home in a hospital bed, so they decided not to evacuate. Instead, an employee from Magellan remained on their property, monitoring air quality for unhealthy levels of hydrogen sulfide, H2S.

Texas Railroad Commission records show Magellan Pipeline Company holds 16 operator license permits across the state.  A search of the RRC’s online database shows one other pipeline damage report involving a Magellan-owned pipeline. That report shows the damage happened in May 2012.

The damage report shows JW Powerline was the contractor involved in the damage, but the RRC sent the contractor a letter in October 2012 with a “no penalty” finding.

Pipeline Damage Across Texas

So far this year, the Texas Railroad Commission closed 3,421 pipeline damage reports across the state. The commission regulates the state’s 218,670 miles of pipeline — lines that carry gas and oil across the state, but that begin and end inside Texas’ state lines.

2016 Number of Damage Reports (Source: RRC):

  • Travis County: 474
  • Williamson County: 165
  • Hays County: 90
  • Bastrop: 12
  • Caldwell: 11
  • Burnet: 7
  • Fayette: 7
  • Gillespie: 5
  • Lee: 4

The RRC’s Pipeline Damage Prevention programs requires contractors and pipeline owners to file damage reports anytime an intrastate pipeline is damaged by a hired contractor. Pipeline owners, such as Magellan Pipeline Company, are not required to file a damage report if the damage was caused by its own crews on an interstate pipeline — lines that cross state lines.

The damage reports don’t necessarily indicate a spill, according to the RCC.

The commission maintains a public database of damage reports.

Since Jan. 1, the RRC received and closed 3,421 damage reports to pipelines across Texas. In the 12 counties that make up the KXAN viewing area, the RRC’s received 298 damage reports so far this year; 195 of those reports came in from pipeline damaged in Travis County, RRC records show.

The RRC database shows there were no damage reports filed for pipeline work in Mason, Blanco or Llano Counties for 2016.

So far in 2017, pipeline damage report totals in those case counties are largely on pace with 2016 totals.

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