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Olympic Pipeline Company and Shell Pipeline Company fka Equilon Pipeline Company Oil Spill Settlement

The U.S. Justice Department, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a civil settlement on January 17, 2003, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in United States v. Shell Pipeline Co. LP fka Equilon Pipeline Co. LLC and Olympic Pipe Line Co., CV02-1178R. The civil settlements with Olympic Pipe Line Company and Shell Pipeline Company LP resolved Clean Water Act claims for environmental violations leading to the 1999 fatal pipeline rupture in Bellingham, Washington. The settlements were announced in the Federal Register on January 27, 2003 (citation) and are subject to a 30-day public comment period.

The Bellingham rupture from the Olympic pipeline resulted in the discharge of over 230,000 gallons of gasoline - enough gasoline to form a layer approximately three inches thick on the surface of Hanna and Whatcom Creeks over a distance of approximately 1.33 miles. Within 45 to 90 minutes of the rupture, the gasoline ignited, resulting in a fireball that traveled along Whatcom Creek for more than a mile, devastating everything in its path and generating a plume of smoke approximately six miles high. As a result of the incident, three people were killed: two ten-year-old boys and a teenager, and at least nine others were injured. In addition, one home was completely destroyed. The gasoline spill and resulting fire killed more than 100,000 fish and other aquatic organisms in the impacted area. Other species of wildlife also were killed. The habitats for these aquatic organisms and wildlife also were damaged or destroyed, necessitating extensive restoration work to rebuild an environment in which those organisms could live. The fire destroyed 2.5 miles of riparian vegetation along both banks of Whatcom Creek and also killed and injured mature growth trees within a burn zone encompassing 26 acres.

For additional information, contact:

Cheryl Rose
Water Enforcement Division (2243A)
1200 Pennsylvania, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-4136