Cross Timbers continues cleanup

Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

A temporary outfall line and oil recovery system were installed over the weekend in Nikiski at the site of a Cross Timbers produced- water spill which was contaminated with an unknown amount of crude oil.

Doug Lentsch, general manager of Cook Inlet Spill Prevention Response Inc., said Monday his personnel installed a simple system to separate oil from water, which appears to be working.

"I can't even see a sheen in the drums we set up," Lentsch said.

On Saturday, employees from Cross Timbers hooked up a temporary plastic outfall line to the broken end of the line that failed last week, to direct the produced water to the beach where it enters the system that was set up by CISPRI on Sunday.

The CISPRI system uses a half culvert to direct the produced water to two interconnected drums filled with absorbent pompons. The pompons absorb any crude oil in the produced water, while the cleaned water is directed into a sprinkler pipe which then spreads it evenly over the beach to avoid erosion.

"What it does is give the water some resident time in the drums so the sorbent material can do its job," Lentsch said.

He said he is making two visits a day to check the setup and replace the pompons.

Cross Timbers has a federal Environmental Protection Agency permit to pipe produced water -- a byproduct of oil drilling -- into Cook Inlet about 400 feet from shore, but only after all traces of crude oil are removed.

The corroded outfall pipe was discovered Wednesday afternoon and the line was shut down about four hours later.

In the 24 hours before the line was shut down, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said company records show more than 50,000 gallons of produced water, contaminated with an unknown amount of crude oil, was pumped into the line.

Bruce Pozzi of the public relations firm in Anchorage that bears his name is the spokesperson for Cross Timbers. He said Monday "99.9 percent" of the fluid that leaked out was water.

"There was very little oil," he said. "So little you can barely see the sheen."

Steve Palko, president of Cross Timbers, issued a written statement Friday saying he did not know how the water came to be contaminated by crude oil.

"At this time it is uncertain as to the origin of the oil we're finding at the beachhead," he wrote. "As successor operator, we are not aware of possible past events that could have impacted this area.

"Protecting the Cook Inlet environmentally is a paramount priority to this company."

Pozzi said the outfall pipe is all new as of August 1997. It runs down a heavily vegetated gully above ground for the first one-third of the hill, and then goes underground until its outlet in the inlet.

On Friday, Peak Oilfield Services and Cross Timbers employees began using shovels and 5-gallon buckets to remove some contaminated soil at the site of the leak.

"They got the contaminated soil out of there by Sunday," Pozzi said. "It's not a huge area. They are there and they are taking care of it."

The temporary recovery efforts will continue while Cross Timbers' consultants develop a plan to present to the DEC to characterize the area and determine the extent of damage.

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