BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Crews are working around the clock outside Birmingham, Alabama
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant traveled to the site of the rupture and spoke directly to federal and company leaders overseeing that work in Shelby County, Alabama.
Alpharetta-based Colonial has acknowledged that between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from a pipeline near Helena, Alabama, since the spill was first detected Sept. 9. It's unclear when the spill actually began.
According to a preliminary report, it wasn't possible to immediately pinpoint the leak, partly because highly flammable benzene and gasoline vapors hung in the air and prevented firefighters, company officials and anyone else from being near the site for more than three days.
State workers discovered the leak when they noticed a strong gasoline odor and sheen on a man-made retention pond, along with dead vegetation nearby, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said in a report.
Diamant learned the EPA has a large command center set up at the site of the leak and another one a few miles away.
"We're still in that emergency phase,” EPA On-Scene Coordinator Kevin Eichinger told Diamant.
PRICE GOUGING? Any concerns regarding gas prices and gouging should be reported to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs at 800-869-1123 or www.consumer.ga.gov/.
Diamant spoke one-on-one with Eichinger outside the Birmingham golf resort where dozens of federal, state and local agency leaders have set up a command post to deal with the aftermath of a massive gasoline pipeline leak blamed for widespread metro Atlanta gas outages.
"Overall, we're here to assure that the cleanup is done properly, ensure that it's done completely and safely," Eichinger said.
The EPA wouldn't let our camera in the command center, and police roadblocks and flight restrictions kept us from getting within 3 miles of the site of Colonial Pipeline's ruptured "line 1" that dumped more than 300,000 gallons of gasoline into mining retention ponds in rural Shelby County.
The company posted low-resolution photos on their website; the only public images so far of the leak.
"Colonial has brought the proper and the sufficient resources, proper expertise to respond and clean up the spilled gasoline," Eichinger told Diamant.%
Colonial spokesman Bill Berry told Diamant the company still hasn't found the spill's source.
"What is it that makes it so dangerous for you guys to get in there to where the actual rupture occurred?" Diamant asked Berry.
"These are gasoline vapors that we're dealing with, and everybody knows that it's a challenge to work around in that kind of environment," Berry said.
Berry said a bypass around the spill site should be finished this week, and since the nearest neighbor is about 3 miles away, there is no public safety risk associated with the spill.
Colonial representatives in metro Atlanta told Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland that once they start pumping through that bypass, it'll take only hours to fully pressurize the line, and that the bypass is capable of handling the usual flow rate.
Gas that is showing up in the metro area is 87 octane, which is leaving some drivers to pump the cheap stuff for a change.
“Normally (I fill with) premium. I’m taking a risk. I only need about a quarter tank, so I’m thinking maybe if i put it in there with the premium it'll do all right,” said Robin McGinnis.
McGinnis has a Lexus that takes premium gas. She told Strickland she found two empty stations before opting for regular at a QT.
“I've got a half a tank of premium, I figured I’d top it off,” McGinnis said. “Six years I’ve had the car, I’ve only had premium gas.”
Strickland found that McGinnis was one of the lucky ones. Only half of Quik Trips 131 locations have gas. The company told Strickland they have strategically decided which ones to supply hoping to serve as wide an area with half the outlets.
They posted a whole list of the have and have-nots on their website.
Strickland saw QT and lots of other tankers in a caravan ready to hit the road from the Doraville Colonial Pipeline terminals.
Prices at wholesale are up $0.18 from the day before the spill.
Until the bypass is ready, Colonial said they are pumping gas through a smaller line usually used for jet fuel and other products.
Strickland’s contact said there have been no complaints about jet fuel supplies.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
© 2020 Cox Media Group