The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has allowed Sunoco to resume the operation of its Mid-Valley Pipeline after a spill in Caddo Parish in Northwest Louisiana last month. The pipeline will operate at 80 percent pressure while authorities investigate the causes of the spill and ensure its absolute safety. About 4,500 barrels of oil are estimated to have gushed forth into a bayou, killing hundreds of amphibians, crayfish and fish.
Cleanup efforts have already resulted in the recovery of more than three quarters of the oil, and several dozen animals have been saved. The oil stretched over four miles, but stopped short of a major body of water. It will take several months to fully restore the area.
"They are making a diligent effort to clean it up," said John Kinnebrew, whose family company owns land that was affected by the spill. "I'm impressed with their efforts. They have a lot of people out there working 24 hours a day."
The same pipeline lost more than 360 barrels in Ohio in March as the result of a dent. Sunoco has been involved in 220 such incidents since 2006. Most have been minor, with only one personal injury reported as a result. PHMSA has issued $1.2 million in total fines as a result of these transgressions. PHMSA fines for pipeline safety violations industry-wide totaled nearly $10 million in 2013.
The Administration has stepped up its supervision and promoted pipeline safety training in recent years, and the effects have been noticeable. According to PHMSA's website, serious incidents resulting in injury are down 45 percent over the past five years, and authorities hope the number will continue to fall.