Tag Archives: leak

Monitoring equipment failed to detect North Dakota pipeline spill

A pipeline rupture spewed more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a North Dakota creek and went detected until a landowner discovered the pollution.

The monitoring equipment didn’t detect the leak, according to Wendy Owen, a spokeswoman for True Cos., which operates the Belle Fourche Pipeline.

A landowner discovered the spill near Belfield on Dec. 5, according to Bill Suess, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Health Department.

The crude migrated about 6 miles from the spill site along Ash Coulee Creek, polluting private and public U.S. Forest Service land. The creek feeds into the Little Missouri River.

Seuss said it appears no oil got that far and that no drinking water sources were threatened.

About 37,000 gallons of oil had been recovered as of Monday.

The pipeline was shut down immediately after the leak was discovered. The pipeline is buried on a hill near Ash Coulee creek and the “hillside sloughed,” which may have ruptured the line, Owen said.

“That is our No.1 theory but nothing is definitive” Owen said. “We have several working theories and the investigation is ongoing.”

True Cos. has a history of oil field-related spills in North Dakota and Montana, including a January 2015 pipeline break into the Yellowstone River. The 32,000-gallon spill temporarily shut down water supplies in the downstream community of Glendive, Montana, after oil was detected in the city’s water treatment system.

The 6-inch steel Belle Fourche Pipeline is mostly underground but was built above ground where it crosses Ash Coulee Creek, Suess said.

Owen said the pipeline was built in the 1980s and is used to gather oil from nearby oil wells to a collection point.

The company has hired Alberta, Canada-based SWAT Consulting Inc. that specializes in cold-weather oil spill cleanups, Suess said.

About 60 workers were on site Dec. 12 and crews have been averaging about 100 yards daily in their cleanup efforts, he said. Some of the oil remains trapped beneath the now frozen creek.

True Cos. operates at least three pipeline companies with a combined 1,648 miles of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, according to information the companies submitted to federal regulators. Since 2006, the companies have reported 36 spills totaling 320,000 gallons of petroleum products, most of which was never recovered.

Federal pipeline safety regulators initiated 19 enforcement activities against the three True pipeline companies since 2004. Those resulted in $537,500 in proposed penalties, of which the company paid $397,200, according to Department of Transportation records.

The potential for a pipeline leak that might taint drinking water is at the core of the disputed four-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, where thousands of people have been protesting its construction in southern North Dakota. That pipeline would cross the Missouri River.

Ryan disinvites Trump from event, ‘sickened’ by tape of Trump vulgarities

Republicans on Friday grappled with a bombshell 2005 audiotape published by The Washington Post in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump boasted in vulgar terms about trying to have sex with an unnamed married woman and groping women, saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

The disclosure threatens Trump’s already shaky standing with women.

Trump’s leaked comments spurred a flood of indignation and came at what some have seen as a potentially pivotal point. Sunday’s presidential debate, a town hall-style event, is seen as critical as Trump tries to rebound from a dip in some opinion polls after a rocky performance in the first debate with Hillary Clinton.

“No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” said Reince Preibus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican elected official, said he was “sickened” by the comments and said Trump would not attend a campaign event in Wisconsin with him on Saturday.

“I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests,” Ryan said in a statement

Trump in a statement shrugged off the leaked tape as “locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago.”

In the recorded conversation, Trump was wearing a microphone and chatting on a bus with Billy Bush, then host of NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” ahead of a segment they were about to tape.

“I did try and f**k her. She was married,” Trump said. “I moved on her like a b**ch, but I couldn’t get there.”

Trump talked about his attraction to beautiful women. “I just start kissing them,” he said.

“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” he said.

“Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything.”

Trump, who has brought up former President Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a criticism of Hillary Clinton, calling her a “total enabler,” responded to the audio.

“Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended,” Trump said.

“Access Hollywood” confirmed the video in its own report, saying it discovered the comments in its library.

Billy Bush, in a statement to Variety, said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” of his comments.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who lost to Trump in the Republican presidential primaries — and who is a cousin to Billy Bush – tweeted that the comments were “reprehensible.”

Mitt Romney, who was the Republican candidate in the 2012 election – and who has long opposed Trump, said his comments were “vile degradations” that “demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

 

 

 

Radioactive material found in groundwater under nuclear power plant

An apparent overflow at a nuclear power plant north of New York City spilled highly radioactive water into an underground monitoring well.

Officials at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, 40 miles north of Manhattan, reported that water contaminated by tritium leaked into the groundwater under the facility. The contamination has remained contained to the site, said Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ordered the state’s environmental conservation and health departments to investigate.

“Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat,” Cuomo said Saturday in a statement.

The leak occurred after a drain overflowed during a maintenance exercise while workers were transferring water, which has high levels of radioactive contamination, said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Normally, a sump pump would take the water and filter it into another treatment system, but the pump apparently was out of service, Sheehan said. After the drain overflowed, the water seeped out of the building into the groundwater.

It was unclear how much water spilled, but samples showed the water had a radioactivity level of more than 8 million picocuries per liter, a 65,000 percent increase from the average at the plant, Cuomo said. The levels are the highest regulators have seen at Indian Point, and the normal number is about 12,300 picocuries per liter, Cuomo said.

Contaminated groundwater would likely slowly make its way to the Hudson River, Sheehan said, but research has shown that water usually ends up in the middle of the river and is so diluted that the levels of radioactivity are nearly undetectable.

A spokesman for Entergy Corp., the New Orleans-based company that operates Indian Point, said the overflow was “likely the cause of the elevated tritium levels.”

“Tritium in the ground is not in accordance with our standards, but I think people should keep in mind there’s no health or safety consequences,” spokesman Jerry Nappi said. “There is no impact on drinking water on or off site.”

> There has been a history of groundwater contamination at Indian Point.

There has been a history of groundwater contamination at Indian Point. A federal oversight agency issued a report after about 100,000 gallons of tritium-tainted water entered the groundwater supply in 2009, and elevated levels of tritium also were found in two monitoring wells at the plant in 2014. Officials said then the contamination likely stemmed from an earlier maintenance shutdown.

An Associated Press investigation in 2009 showed three-quarters of America’s 65 nuclear plant sites have leaked tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that poses the greatest risk of causing cancer when it ends up in drinking water. 

Well owned by Exxon Mobil subsidiary suffers blow out

A North Dakota oil well owned by Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy blew out over the weekend, leaking more than 550 barrels of crude, some of which left the wellpad and seeped into surrounding grasses.

The well, located in a rural area 25 miles southeast of Watford City, was being hydraulic fractured when its pressure control valves failed and it leaked the oil and about 110 barrels of saltwater, according to state and company officials.

The well was brought under control a day later.

“We are working to understand the cause,” XTO spokeswoman Suann Guthrie said. “We are very sorry this incident has occurred.”

The company’s emergency response responded to the leak and local officials were notified. XTO said it has begun cleanup at the site.

The well, Deep Creek Federal 43X-5D, is located on the same drilling pad as four other wells and was first drilled on April 25, according to state data.

Nuclear waste entombed after leak in New Mexico

Hundreds of containers of waste have been entombed at the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico now that workers have closed off storage areas affected by a radiation leak, officials said this week.

After months of work, crews finished sealing the last of two bunkers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant late last week. The milestone was announced by state Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn as he updated lawmakers gathered in Santa Fe on recovery efforts at the plant, which has been closed since the February 2014 leak.

Flynn described the closure of the area known as Panel 6 and one room within Panel 7 as a major accomplishment.

Inside the two areas were 422 containers packed with radioactive waste similar to the one that ruptured last year and caused the leak. The containers appear stable, but officials say they still include an incompatible mix of nitrate salts and organic cat litter used for absorbing moisture.

“We, along with the Department of Energy, believe that they needed to permanently close these panels as soon as possible in order to prevent against any additional releases,” Flynn told the lawmakers.

The state initially set a deadline for completing the work by the start of 2015, but closure of the panels was delayed in part by the investigation into the leak.

Workers used salt mined from another area of the repository, chain link, brattice cloth and steel bulkheads to close off the storage areas. They also installed air monitors.

“This is an unprecedented issue we’ve had to confront,” Flynn said. “There were certainly some problems early on, but I think we’re really starting to turn a corner now and we’re beginning to see some meaningful progress at the facility itself.”

The repository remains closed and federal officials have said it could take years and more than a half-billion dollars to resume full operations.

The Energy Department and the contractor that runs the repository aim to resume limited operations by this time next year, but Flynn told lawmakers he expects it will take longer.

WIPP’s closure has delayed cleanup of legacy waste like contaminated gloves, tools and clothing from decades of bomb-making across the federal government’s nuclear complex. In its 15 years of operation, the nuclear dump received shipments from more than 20 sites as part of the Energy Department’s multibillion-dollar-a-year cleanup program.

Investigators determined the container that ruptured and forced the closure was packed inappropriately at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Flynn said there’s no longer any margin of error and the corrective actions called for by the state and federal investigators should prevent another mishap.

Flynn also outlined for lawmakers a $73.2 million settlement reached last month with the DOE. Nearly half of that will go toward improving transportation routes for hauling waste to the repository.

Feds: organic cat litter may have caused radiation release at U.S. nuclear dump

The investigation into a February radiation release from the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico has turned to a seemingly unusual suspect: cat litter.

Federal officials have zeroed in on a barrel of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory as the source of the leak, and one theory is that a change in the type of cat litter that it was packed with caused a leak that contaminated 22 workers with low levels of radiation on Feb. 14, shuttering the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, indefinitely.

State environment officials now say more than 500 barrels of waste from decades of nuclear bomb-making at Los Alamos were packed the same way, and they are concerned that the barrels scattered between the underground dump, Los Alamos’ northern New Mexico campus and a commercial disposal site in West Texas pose a potentially “imminent and substantial” danger to public health and the environment.

Here are questions and answers about the waste:

WHY WAS CAT LITTER USED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

The cat litter was used to absorb moisture in sealed barrels of nuclear waste at Los Alamos, home to the some of the world’s finest scientists. Officials have said cat litter has long been used to pack waste because of its absorption and neutralizing qualities. It’s commonly used, for example, by people to soak up oil spills in driveways. But Los Alamos switched from nonorganic to organic litter for packing waste in 2013, and the theory is that some kind of chemical reaction occurred between waste containing nitrate salts and the new litter. Officials said they are investigating who made the decision to make the switch and what process was followed.

HOW CAN CAT LITTER POSE SUCH A DANGER?

Investigators have said the litter theory is just one possible cause being explored, but it is being studied seriously enough to prompt New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn this week to order Los Alamos and the underground nuclear dump to put together plans for immediately isolating all 500-plus barrels of waste known to contain nitrate salts and organic cat litter. Based on evidence from crews that have been down in the mine since the release, a barrel of waste from Los Alamos experienced some type of “heat event” that burned the exterior and popped the waste container’s lid.

HOW MANY CONTAINERS WERE PACKED LIKE THIS AND WHERE ARE THEY?

More than 500, according to state regulators. More than 350 of the containers are already at the subterranean dump, in storage rooms carved into ancient salt beds a half mile below the ground. Fifty-seven are still on the campus of Los Alamos, which had been working under orders to remove the last of thousands of such containers from outdoor storage by the end of June. The waste came to the public’s attention three years ago as a massive wildfire lapped at the edges of lab property. More than 100 more barrels are at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas, where they were sent for temporary storage as Los Alamos worked to remove the waste following the radiation leak.

COULD THE OTHER BARRELS BE TICKING TIME BOMBS?

That question has state regulators concerned. Flynn this week ordered Los Alamos to submit plans for ensuring the 57 containers of questionably packed waste still on its campus are isolated and secure. The lab said it has packed them in special containers, placed them under a dome with a fire extinguishing system and is closely monitoring them. Waste Control Specialists has taken similar precautions. As for the more than 350 containers already at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Flynn has ordered the U.S. Department of Energy to expedite plans for sealing off the underground rooms where the waste is stored. Complicating that effort is the laborious investigative process. The cause of the leak has not yet been determined. Crews have been able to make about two trips a week into the area where the leak occurred, but it’s a painstaking process and they are still working to see if other containers have been breached.

Marine denies mocking Bradley Manning’s homosexuality

A former supervisor of the Marine Corps brig that housed an Army private charged with sending U.S. secrets to the WikiLeaks website denied this week that he was making light of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s homosexuality when he referred to the soldier’s underwear as “panties” in a staff memo.

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brian Papakie testified as a prosecution witness on the seventh day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. The hearing will determine whether the nine months Manning spent in Marine Corps custody in Quantico, Virginia, amounts to illegal pretrial punishment, and whether his case should be dismissed as a result. The military contends Manning had to be confined to his cell at least 23 hours a day, sometimes without clothing, to prevent him from hurting or killing himself during his confinement July 2010-April 2011.

Papakie testified on cross-examination about a memo he wrote after the brig commander ordered Manning stripped of his underwear each night starting March 2, 2011. Manning stood naked at attention for a prisoner count the next morning, causing a stir that prompted Papakie to write an email to ensure it didn’t happen again.

“Make sure he is not standing at attention naked for evening count right before taps. You should be taking his panties right before he lays down,” Papakie wrote.

Under questioning by defense attorney David Coombs, Papakie said he uses the word interchangeably with “skivvies” and “underwear” when discussing men’s undershorts.

“I’ve always used the phrase, ‘Don’t get my panties in a bunch,’ which is what I tell the staff all the time,” he said.

Papakie acknowledged that he knew Manning was gay but said he didn’t consider the word “panties” homophobic. He conceded that it was not professional to use the term in a memo.

Papakie followed another witness, Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who testified that Manning’s sexual orientation was among the factors that led him to recommend Manning remain on injury-prevention status despite two psychiatrists’ repeated recommendations that his conditions be eased.

Manning was arrested in May 2010, before the military lifted a ban on gays serving openly in the armed services.

Manning’s lawyers must show that his treatment at Quantico was either intentional punishment or so egregious that it was tantamount to punishment. The government has the burden of proving by preponderance of the evidence that it had a legitimate purpose in imposing the restrictions.

The judge, Col. Denise Lind, could dismiss all charges if she finds for the defense but military legal experts say that’s unlikely. A more common remedy is extra credit at sentencing for time served. Manning’s lawyers have asked for 10-for-1 credit if the judge refuses to dismiss the case.

Manning’s treatment drew international attention and was condemned by his supporters, who consider him a heroic whistleblower. United Nations torture investigator Juan E. Mendez called Manning’s treatment “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”

The 24-year-old is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He’s accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

He’s also charged with leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.