Vow to reimburse Palos Park for costs
By Jeff Vorva
Palos Park Village Manager Rick Boehm said that it was “quite lucky” that a jet fuel spill in late August wasn’t worse. But village officials say there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure residents are safe from the spill’s aftereffects.
The West Shore Pipe Line Company and Buckeye Partners, L.P., which own and operate a pipeline that broke on Aug. 27 and shut down parts of Illinois 83 for five days, gave a two-hour presentation/question-and-answer session at Monday’s Village Council meeting. Village officials were thankful that a nearby 15-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep ditch in the area absorbed most of the fuel.
“The village of Palos Park and its residents got quite lucky,” Boehm said. “The fuel spill was away from the residents. It didn’t transfer to the south side of Route 83. We were lucky there was a ditch there. Had it not been there, we could have lost a lot of trees. It went toward the [Calumet-Sag Channel] and away from the residents.”
Palos Park police blocked off a stretch of Route 83 between Southwest Highway and La Grange Road for five days from Aug. 27 to Aug. 31 after fuel leaked into the surrounding area west of Highwood Drive and Route 83.
Pipeline representatives Monday estimated that 250 to 500 gallons of fuel spilled into the Cal-Sag, but it was swiftly recovered. But another 32,000 gallons affected soil and the ditch. They estimated 2.5 tons of earth has been removed and transported to an undisclosed landfill.
Although most of those involved in the meeting praised the swift cleanup action after the incident, Patrick Hodgins, Buckeye Partners director of health, safety, security and environment, said it will take weeks to continue to remove the affected soil until “clean” soil is found. The pipeline owner and operators will continue to conduct air and soil tests through 2013 and possibly 2014.
The cause of the break has not yet been determined, but Hodgins said that line is shut down and won’t be open again until the line goes through testing.
Village Commissioner G. Darryl Reed and West Shore General Manager and President Jay Andrews debated the grade of the fuel. Reed, a lawyer who said he has represented pipeline companies, called the fuel “kerosene on steroids” and bad for the air and soil, while Andrews said it was a lower-grade K-1 kerosene, which is not as severe. Andrews promised to report back to the board on officially what grade the fuel was and some of the chemicals that were in it. Reed was also concerned it contained benzene, a chemical solvent that could cause cancer.
“Part of the problem is that in the initial report there were assertions that there was some bad stuff for people to be breathing,” Reed said. “Now we’re hearing it may not be military-grade jet fuel our concern may be lessened. However if there is a cancerous-causing additive in the product, people here want to know about it. We don’t want folks having cancer out here.”
Five residents addressed the pipeline representatives with questions and concerns during the meeting. Kristine Hynes said she lives close to the spill and that when the spill first occurred, she didn’t notice the smell. But on Sept. 7 the smell was prevalent.
“I don’t have any reports that soil on my property has been tested yet,” Hynes said. “The only report I have is that they came and tested my well one day 48 hours after the incident. They haven’t tested it since then. We need reports more frequently. We need to know the long-term consequences of this.”
Village officials do not yet have an estimate on how much this spill would cost, but said that the pipeline companies will reimburse them for the costs.
Mayor John Mahoney said the village hired Daniel Caplice of Hinsdale-based K-Plus Engineering as a consultant. There will be several sets of eyes watching the testing process in the near future, he said.
“The company is making samples in these ditches,” Mahoney said. “The United States Environmental Protection Agency is doing parallel samples — taking them to different labs and having them checked. Even though it seems redundant, we also hired an environmental consultant because we feel it’s a prudent course of action. He will review what happens to make sure they are on board with the plan and the testing. Our consultant will continue to review and monitor the process. We want to make sure nothing is missed.”
The two sides say they are putting residents’ safety first.
“It could have been an awful lot worse,” Reed said to the pipeline reps. “You’ve been good corporate citizens and we certainly appreciate that, but we’re going to hold your feet to the fire.”
“We’re here to do what’s right,” Hodgins said. “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here until it’s cleaned up.”