On 11/15/06, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (KYDEP) was notified of a potential crude oil spill in a mountain stream in rural Estill County, Kentucky. Estill County emergency management officials procured the use of a backhoe to divert the crude oil spill into a small farm pond at the base of the mountain. The pond, which serves as a containment basin for the crude oil spill, is located along Pitts Road, approximately 5 miles northeast of Ravenna, KY. (The GPS coordinates for the pond are N 37.73222 degrees latitude, and W 83.89111 degrees longitude.) Prior to establishing containment of the oil spill at the farm pond on 11/15/06, the crude oil discharged directly into the Rogers Fork to Cow Creek, which flows directly into the Kentucky River in Ravenna, KY. The Kentucky River is a navigable water of the United States.
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KDEP's Environmental Response Team (KDEP ERT)responded on 11/15, and identified the source of the oil discharge to be coming from multiple springs originating from the mountainside approximately 0.25 mi. uphill of the pond. KDEP mobilized PECCO, Inc. of Nicholasville, KY to respond and mitigate the oil discharge. KDEP also filed NRC Report No. 818332 on 11/15. On 11/16, OSC Smith was dispatched by the Region 4 Phone Duty Officer to further investigate the source of the discharge and monitor cleanup efforts.
From 11/27-11/29, OSC Smith was onscene to oversee field activities in response to this incident. On 11/27, the OSC, the EPA START contractor and the KDEP Division of Water/Groundwater Branch rep convened to go over specific conductance testing performed on this date by KDEP. Due to the close proximity of the active production wells on the S.M. Maple Lease which are upgradient of the oil-bearing seeps, and the absence of oil and brine seeping from the subsurface or other abandoned wells at elevations lower than that of the oil-producing seeps, the OSC concluded that the cause of the oil discharge was from the active oil production facility owned and operated by United American Energy (UAE).
Under the delegated authority of the Clean Water Act Section 311(c), the OSC issued an Administrative Order on 11/29/2006 to UAE and Arrowhead requiring the Respondents to:
-Immediately cease all oil production and underground injection activities on active wells where the surface elevations are equal to or above identified oil discharge locations.
-Immediately assume responsibility for continued containment, collection, and offsite recycling/treatment/disposal of recovered oil product and debris at the Pitts Road containment basin.
-Submit a Work Plan (including a schedule) detailing procedures for measurement of fluid levels in all producing wells where the surface elevations are equal to or above that of the previously identified oil discharges and the inspection/evaluation of all gathering lines serving these wells.
As of 11/29 @ 1700 hrs. EST, all oil production was shut down on the affected portions of the Maple Lease. However, UAE declined to accept responsibility for active containment and collection of the oil discharge, until such time as the investigation of the facility is completed. Upon receipt of this information, the OSC terminated the PRFA issued to KDEP, and issued a verbal Task Order to the Region 4 Emergency and Rapid Response Services (ERRS) contractor CMC, Inc. on 11/30 for purposes of stabilizing the oil discharge and removal of oil product emanating from the seeps.
On 02/01/07, OSC Smith transmitted EPA's comments on the Potentially Responsible Party's (PRP's) Work Plan for investigation of the integrity of wells and flow lines. On 03/04, field work commenced implementing the Work Plan, and EPA's START contractor was onscene to document the investigation. START collected oil and water samples from the facility and the seep, as well as background water samples from nearby springs.
On 03/12, testing performed by the Responsible Party (RP) to investigate the cause of the oil spill revealed a leaking flow line connected to the production well closest to the seep where oil was first discovered. A 1-1/2 inch long tear in the 2" diameter poly pipe buried nearly 3 feet below ground was photographed by START for documentation purposes. The investigation was terminated at that point, pending receipt of acknowledgement of responsibility by UAE for the 11/15/06 discharge.
In a letter submitted to EPA on 04/12, UAE acknowledged responsibility for the oil discharge into the Rogers Fork watershed, which was originally discovered in November 2006. In a companion document prepared by UAE's consultant Delta Environmental which detailed the findings of the site investigation, UAE concluded that the leak probably occurred within 3 days of the time that the oil had surfaced at the spring. This was corraborated by the fact that the oil discharge from the seep slowed dramatically once oil production was halted in December 2006. EPA's records for recovery of oil product further support this finding. Over 650 gallons of crude oil product had been collected by the EPA ERRS contractor CMC, Inc. from December 2006 through March 2007. However, the majority of this oil was collected in December 2006, as less than 50 gallons of oil were recovered during the month of January 2007, and practically no oil was recovered during the month of February 2007.
On 04/25/07, the OSC met with UAE and KDEP to transition the oversight of the remaining response activities response to KDEP for final cleanup and restoration of the site.