KEY POINTS

  • A 2020 inspection showed damage along a 22-foot section of the Meraux Pipeline
  • Thousands of fish and wildlife were killed by the spill, reveal documents from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • Operator Collins Pipeline said the damage has been repaired and operations have resumed

A corroded pipeline spilled more than 300,000 gallons of diesel near New Orleans and killed thousands of fish and animals before year-end 2021, federal records have revealed. Operator Collins Pipeline Co. has been accused of delaying supposed repairs on the damaged 16-inch-diameter line.

The spill was discovered Dec. 27 near a levee in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, but was not previously publicly recorded, Associated Press reported.

Records from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Facility Administration revealed that the damaged pipe had lost 75% of its metal where the worst corrosion appeared, but the line continued operation despite an October 2020 inspection that showed the Meraux Pipeline had external corrosion along a 22-foot section of the pipe.

A second inspection showed that the damage did not require immediate repair, the records revealed.

State and local officials said Wednesday that the spill contaminated soil in an area considered to be environmentally sensitive and it killed 2,300 fish and over a hundred other animals. Among the killed animals were 32 birds and 39 snakes.

Robert “Trey” Iles, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildfire and Fisheries, said nearly 130 animals, including alligators and turtles, had to be captured and rehabilitated after the spill. Collins Pipeline initially reported between 8,400 to 12,600 gallons of diesel spill, but on Dec. 28, the operator estimated the spill to have been more than 300,000 gallons.

Bill Caram, a pipeline safety advocate with the Pipeline Safety Trust, said it was “maddening” to know that operations on the corroded pipe continued for more than a year after the initial inspection, USA Today reported.

According to the report, Collins Pipeline has since been monitoring recovery operations. Michael Karlovich, the Vice President of PBF Energy Inc., which owns Collins Pipeline, said $500,000 has been sent for the pipeline’s repairs, adding that the operation of the line resumed Jan. 8. An environmental damage assessment is underway.

Karlovich also told CNN that as of Thursday, more than 320,000 gallons of diesel fuel was recovered from the site during massive cleanup operations.

News of the recent spill came months after Colonial Pipeline reached a settlement with federal regulators over an estimated 1.2 million gallons of gasoline spilled in Huntersville in August 2020.

Under the July settlement, Colonial agreed to evaluate and continuously improve its detection system that failed to detect the biggest spill in North Carolina history.

A man carries buckets while working to clean up an oil spill near a PDVSA pipeline in Voladero, Monagas state The pipeline's operator has been accused of delaying repairs on damaged parts of the Meraux Pipeline that were detected during a 2020 inspection. In photo: a man carries buckets while working to clean up an oil spill near a PDVSA pipeline in Voladero, Monagas state Photo: AFP / Yuri CORTEZ