Jet fuel pipeline leak closes Route 83 in Park

By Kevin Smith

Environmental concerns linger after a pipeline on Monday spilled jet fuel into a wooded area near the 8400 block of Route 83 in Palos Park and into the Calumet-Sag Channel.

Palos Park police blocked off the stretch of Route 83 between Southwest Highway and La Grange Road after a break in the in-ground gasline at about 3 a.m. sent fuel into the surrounding area west of Highwood Drive and Route 83, Police Chief Joe Miller said. Officials hoped to re-open the stretch by today.

The line was shut down by West Shore Pipe Line Company, the owner of the line, within one minute of the discovery of the break. The company then dispatched crews to contain the spill under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency, with emergency response crews from Palos Park, Cook County and the U.S. Coast Guard assisting with the clean-up, Miller said.

The Cal-Sag was also closed for a matter of hours on Monday, allowing the U.S. Coast Guard to deploy oil absorption booms and contain the spill, Village Manager Rick Boehm said.

Village Building Commissioner G. Darryl Reed voiced his concerns at the Village Council meeting on Monday, after the owner of the pipeline was unable to explain the cause of the break and the amount of jet fuel that was spilled. Reed was also worried about the environmental impact.

“What was the composition of the chemicals in the spill?” Reed asked. “How will it affect residents?”

“[There] is no danger to the community,” Police Chief Joe Miller said Monday evening in an e-mail. “The situation is under control and remediation and repair are underway.”

Boehm credited West Shore Pipe Line for its quick response to the spill, and for alerting Palos Park police when the break was discovered.

“Cleanup has been pretty swift,” Boehm said. “The odor in the in the air appears to be the only discomfort.”

 Still, soil has already been removed from the affected area and trees may need to be cut down, given that the area is fairly wooded, Boehm said.

West Shore Pipe Line Company released a statement Monday afternoon in response to the spill, in which it recounted its response to the pipe break.

“The pipeline system will remain shut down until it is deemed safe by company officials and regulatory authorities,” the statement read. “We are working closely with our customers to minimize supply disruption.”

Commissioner Reed was unsatisfied with the release, which he dismissed as “puffery.” Reed was disappointed that the company did not send a representative to field his questions and questions from residents.

“Tell the truth; that’s all we ask,” Reed said that he was unaware of the spill until Monday afternoon. “No one’s speaking and all I’m hearing is crickets.”

Reed hopes for a detailed report from the company that can be released to residents to dispel any environmental concerns.

The affected pipeline is part of the Badger Pipeline System, which transports fuels from Indiana to delivery points in the greater Chicago regions and parts of Wisconsin, according to the statement from West Shore Pipe Line Company. The system transports gasoline, diesel and aviation turbine fuels throughout the region.