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10,000-gallon pipeline spill cleanup begins at Ohio nature preserve

CINCINNATI – Crews worked Wednesday to prevent the spread of more than 10,000 gallons of oil that leaked into a southwest Ohio nature preserve and clean up the mess, a task expected to take several days.

Workers put berms and barriers in place and dug containment ditches before rain fell Wednesday at the 374-acre Oak Glen Nature Preserve, west of Cincinnati. They vacuumed crude from the wooded ravine and wetlands where it leaked, and planned to build an access road for heavy equipment.

Some 240 barrels of crude oil leaked near the Great Miami River before it was discovered early Tuesday and the pipeline was shut off. Greater Cincinnati Water Works spokeswoman Michele Ralston said the leak posed no threat to the public water supply, but local officials planned to test private wells in the area.

As of Wednesday, the only sign of damage to wildlife was a single dead crawfish, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Matt Eiselstein.

The 20-inch diameter pipeline is part of Mid-Valley Pipeline Co.’s system running nearly 1,000 miles from Texas to Michigan. It is primarily owned by Sunoco Logistics Partners.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said the pipeline was shut off from Hebron, in northern Kentucky, to Lima, in northwest Ohio.

“There’s no timeline on restarting,” Shields said. “We’re still evaluating the impact on our customers.”

He said it was too soon to estimate the cleanup cost.

Sunoco had a 15-strong response team at the site, joining U.S. and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials, environmental cleanup crews under contract, and local authorities.

The oil leaked into an intermittent stream nearly a mile long and into an acre-sized marshy area. The preserve is part of the Great Parks of Hamilton County system. Described by the parks department as an area of rugged hills with wildflowers and woods, the preserve also hosts native animals including deer and a variety of birds.

Shields said the cause of the leak was under investigation. He said crews confirmed the release at about 1 a.m. Tuesday and that part of the pipeline was shut down immediately.

Colerain Township Fire Capt. Steve Conn said it is not known how long the pipeline had been leaking. He told The Cincinnati Enquirer that residents near the preserve said they had smelled petroleum for days.

Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heather Lauer said the pipeline dates back to the 1950s. She said there’s no record of any previous problems at the site.

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