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Leak During Pipeline Test Closes Freeway for 2 Hours

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An underground pipeline ruptured during a pressure test Wednesday morning, showering the Golden State Freeway with water containing green dye and oil residue that closed the southbound lanes for two hours just north of the Los Angeles County line.

Authorities said the spill caused no accidents or environmental damage.

The 5:15 a.m. break about six miles north of Gorman occurred in a 10-inch-wide pipe that was under high-pressure testing for leaks, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Don Perry said. The heated crude oil normally pumped through the pipe operated by Four Corners Pipe Line Co., a subsidiary of Atlantic Richfield Co., had been replaced for testing purposes with dyed green water. Authorities said the fluid in the pipe contained no more than 1% to 3% oil residue.

About 110,000 gallons of the fluid leaked from the pipe, which was buried in a ditch alongside the freeway, Perry said. Pressure in the pipe caused about 10% of the fluid to shoot 30 feet into the air and onto all four southbound lanes, the CHP said. Several cars drove through the shower of green liquid before the CHP closed off the freeway.

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The rest of the spilled liquid went into drainage culverts that empty into a nearby creek. Authorities said that the spill posed no environmental hazard and that the fluid would not damage cars that drove through it.

“It is a nontoxic, non-hazardous material,” Perry said. “If people got it on their cars they can wash it off with soap and water.”

The cleanup was supervised by the California Department of Transportation and monitored by the state Department of Fish and Game and Kern County health authorities. The freeway reopened at 7:15 a.m.

Authorities said the pipeline company will be billed for the cleanup.

“We got real lucky; there is no habitat destruction,” Fish and Game Officer Scott Willems said. “As far as oil contamination, there was a little bit but it was so widely dispersed in the water that there isn’t much of an environmental danger.”

Al Greenstein, a spokesman for Arco, said the segment of pipe where the rupture occurred was part of the original pipeline constructed in the mid-1920s. The pipeline, which delivers about 60,000 gallons of crude oil a day, runs from the San Joaquin Valley to refineries in the Long Beach area, Greenstein said.

He said the pipeline was undergoing routine testing during which it was packed with water at a pressure of 850 pounds per square inch. Heated oil is normally run through the pipeline at 400 pounds of pressure per square inch.


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