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Pipeline Spill: State Of Emergency For Alabama, Georgia

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Gasoline pipeline spill near Birmingham, AlabamaGasoline pipeline spill near Birmingham, Alabama

A state of emergency has been issued in the states of Alabama and Georgia following a pipeline spill that released about 250,000 gallons of gasoline.

Through an executive order, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency on Sept. 15 over concerns of fuel shortages, AL.com reports. The gasoline pipeline spill occurred south of Birmingham and shut down a major pipeline that connects refineries in Houston, Texas, with parts of the country leading all the way to New York.

On Sept. 13, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency, stating that the shutdown of the pipeline could potentially cause a temporary shortage of gasoline, which threatens the public welfare.

Colonial Pipeline, who operates the pipeline, issued a statement declaring that certain states, including Alabama and Georgia, would be impacted by the spill.

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"Based on current projections and consultations with industry partners, parts of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina will be the first markets to be impacted by any potential disruption in supply,” the company’s statement said.

"Colonial has briefed officials in these states and will continue to provide timely information to the public so that they can plan accordingly,” it continued.

In order to minimize shortages of gasoline, both state’s executive orders will allow fuel delivery truck drivers to work longer shifts and exceed the maximum hourly limits set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The use of water for transport has also begun in order to supply states such as New York with gasoline from Houston.

The pipeline leak, which is now contained, was discovered on Sept. 9 at an inactive mine, according to AL.com. The nearest home to the spill site is 2.5 miles away.

The EPA, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the Pelham Fire Department, Helena Fire Department, and other local agencies are monitoring Colonial’s progress in cleaning up the spill to make sure that they meet their obligations under the law.

"They have mobilized an army to respond to this spill," Chuck Berry with the EPA said. "I would say it's been better than adequate."

Nearby creeks and streams are being monitored to make sure the gasoline does not reach them as they flow into the Cahaba River.

Colonial plans to repair the pipeline as soon as possible.

"We're not going to rush this," Colonial Pipeline spokesman Bill Berry said. "It's really kind of a function of what are the environmental conditions and how can we best maintain public safety as well as our worker safety. 

"We are anxious to repair the pipeline. This is a significant piece of infrastructure in the United States for supplying petroleum products to airports, to major markets, to minor markets and it's not lost on us that this issue is affecting the supply and distribution system."

According to the EPA, local residents are not in danger.

Sources: AL.com (2), The State of Georgia / Photo credit: Colonial Pipeline via AL.com

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