Work to clean up contamination at a site in south central New Mexico, where a quarter of a million gallons of gasoline spilled from a leaking pipeline, is expected to begin next week, state environment officials said Wednesday.
A pipeline owned by Kinder Morgan spilled more than 250,000 gallons of gasoline on Dec. 13, most of which emptied into an unlined irrigation ditch in a rural area of Doña Ana County.
Justin Ball, the acting program manager of the New Mexico Environment Department’s Remediation Oversight Section, said Kinder Morgan will begin excavating an approximately 150-foot long stretch of contaminated soil beginning Monday.
” … We’ll have a better estimate on soil excavation in the next few weeks,” Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Katherine Hill said in an email.
Ball said he anticipates the soil work will take several weeks to complete.
Kinder Morgan cleaned up around 170,000 gallons of gasoline not absorbed into the soil in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
But Ball said the groundwater at the site may have been contaminated, as the water table is only 11 to 12 feet below the surface. The site is also just a mile from the Rio Grande.
“I’ve encouraged Kinder Morgan to remediate the spill aggressively to minimize the long-term effects,” Ball said.
Ball said there are no drinking water or irrigation wells near the spill, just monitoring wells used by the Elephant Butte Irrigation District.
The pipeline, which runs around 288 miles from El Paso to Tucson has since been repaired and returned to normal operations.
The cause of the spill is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The DOT issued a Notice of Proposed Safety Order to Kinder Morgan executive chairman Richard Kinder on Dec. 28.
“Based on our preliminary investigation, it appears that conditions potentially related to the cause of the failure may exist on other segments of the … pipeline,” the report reads.
Sections of the exposed pipeline were heavily corroded, including the site of the two-foot-long split, according to the report.
The DOT proposed a number of corrective measures, including reducing pressure in the area of the failure and testing of the pipeline’s exposed sections.
“We are aware of the notice and are complying with all elements of the document,” Hill wrote.