Gulf oil spill: Leak at New Jersey test facility irks senator


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As if the Gulf oil spill wasn’t enough, now there’s a leak in New Jersey that’s drawing congressional ire. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is angry that a test tank at an oil spill research facility in his state isn’t operating because -- you guessed it -- it sprung a leak.

‘The fact that this facility is inoperable during the nation’s largest oil spill is indicative of a complacency and lack of investment in oil spill response technologies,’ Menendez said in a letter sent Tuesday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.


Salazar mentioned the Oil and Hazardous Materials Simulated Environmental Test Tank during testimony before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month.

But when Menendez’s staff called the Leonardo, N.J., facility to set up a tour, they were told there was a ‘hole in the tank’ and it wouldn’t be back in operation until sometime in July.

‘I was shocked,’ Menendez wrote Salazar, ‘to learn that the facility the Interior Department uses to research how to respond to oil spills is out of commission.’

‘Over the last 20 years, nothing has changed,’ the senator said. ‘The industry and even the government has substantially invested in new technologies to drill in deeper water and deeper into the Earth, but little has been invested in safety or oil spill response and clean-up. Apparently not even enough to keep water in OHMSETT’s testing tank.’

An Interior Department spokeswoman said the facility is shut down for ‘much-needed maintenance and repair.’

‘The decision to do the repairs now was made only after checking with the Coast Guard and others to see if they anticipated using it during this period,’ she said. ‘We also have the ability to bring the facility back on line in several days if the tank is needed for testing to help the spill response effort.’


-- Richard Simon in Washington