Report from the Atwater Oil Spill

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Yesterday’s oil spill in Atwater Village, Los Angeles is a reminder of the risks we take when we transport crude oil hundreds of miles through communities and ecosystems. I was at the scene of the crime – taped off by caution tape and surrounded by city officials and police – and this is what I was told…

A little after midnight on Wednesday night, a valve in a 20-inch pipeline failed and crude oil being transported from the San Joaquin Valley to Long Beach burst through the pipe 30-40 feet into the air. It showered nearby businesses and streets and reportedly caused nausea and respiratory distress in a few people nearby. The spill is reported to be between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons, although initial reports said as much as 50,000. Los Angeles firefighters were quick on the scene, and built a 3 ft sand berm around the pump station where the spill occurred. As far as we can tell, the crude oil was prevented from entering nearby storm drains and the remarkably close LA River, although City of LA Watershed Protection staff continues to monitor the adjacent storm drains on an hourly basis. The pipe and pump station is operated by Plains All American Pipeline, who was also on the scene with their contracted oil spill response team. Our understanding is that Plains will pay for the clean up. Whether there will be any compensation for nearby residents and businesses that were unable to operate today is unknown.

We hope the reports are true – that the LA River did not receive one drop of crude oil from this horrendous spill. However, even if the LA River survived this incident, the neighbors and communities near the spill were definitely impacted by the emissions from the crude and the traffic and commotion it caused.

Recently, there has been much talk of transporting more oil by pipeline and rail across our country, and even through Los Angeles to the LA/LB Port. Transporting tar sands crude to LA through south LA communities has been a concern of LA Waterkeeper and other groups in recent months, especially because there is currently no budget in place to efficiently and effectively respond to inland oil spills in California. LA Waterkeeper is currently urging Senator Jim Beall to adopt a budget for inland oil spills in California, and we encourage you to sign our petition regarding this issue here.

We must thoroughly consider the risks of transporting oil by pipeline and rail through our communities  – is it really worth the harm that can be caused by one failed valve?

-Liz Crosson, Executive Director

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