Two spills in six months dump 1,300 gallons of oil in Salt Lake City


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It’s not quite the Gulf Coast, but Salt Lake City has developed a persistent problem with oil spills. On Wednesday evening, the federal Department of Transportation ordered Chevron to temporarily close a pipeline running through Salt Lake City following the second spill there in six months.

The first incident happened in June, when the Deepwater Horizon was sending thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. The Salt Lake City pipeline, which carries oil from a western Colorado terminal to a Utah refinery, leaked, sending 800 gallons into the Jordan River. That river, which runs through the city, empties into the Great Salt Lake, a major bird refuge.


Then, on the evening of Dec. 1, the pipeline leaked again as temperatures plunged below freezing and a valve cracked. This time, 500 gallons of oil spilled toward a local creek, though only trace amounts have been found in the water.

A Chevron spokesman said the leaks were ‘highly unusual’ and vowed a full examination of how the latest one occurred. The order from the Department of Transportation requires the oil company to submit a detailed plan before it can restart the pipeline. In the meantime, some of the oil is being trucked to the Salt Lake City-area refinery.

Lisa Harrison-Smith, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, noted that the pipeline ran over the water table that supplied more than 1 million people in the metro area. ‘How in the world,’ she asked, ‘does something like this happen six months after the original spill?’

[Updated, 2:05 p.m.: In a statement Thursday afternoon, Chevron formally apologized for the leaks. “We pride ourselves on being a good corporate neighbor and will work to regain the trust of the Salt Lake community,” the company said.

[For the record, 2:44 p.m.: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect name for the oil rig that exploded and caused an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this spring. The rig’s name was the Deepwater Horizon.]

-- Nicholas Riccardi