SELC, partners sue Kinder Morgan for ongoing pollution from 2014 pipeline spill

Oil is still visible at the site of a petroleum pipeline spill near Belton, S.C., that occurred in 2014. (© Savannah Riverkeeper)

SELC, representing Upstate Forever and Savannah Riverkeeper, today filed suit against the energy company Kinder Morgan for its illegal pollution of South Carolina waters. The pollution stems from a 2014 spill of at least 370,000 gallons of gasoline from its Plantation Pipeline in Belton, S.C. The spill was one of the largest in the state’s history and continues discharging petroleum pollutants into a waterway that flows into Broadway Lake, Lake Secession, Lake Russell, and the Savannah River.

“More than two years after this spill was discovered, Kinder Morgan is still polluting the waters of Anderson County and the Savannah River Basin and, at last count, the pollution was increasing,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “It’s well past time for Kinder Morgan to do everything necessary to clean up its spill and stop gasoline from flowing into our water.”

At least 170,000 gallons of gasoline have not been removed from the area where the pipeline ruptured yet, during 2016, Kinder Morgan has not removed any material amount of gasoline from the site. The suit filed today outlines the company's violations of the federal Clean Water Act in Belton, S.C., and was filed in United States District Court in Anderson County.

Earlier this year, Kinder Morgan proposed an inadequate cleanup plan that was roundly criticized by Anderson County Council and organizations and citizens who submitted comments on it.

Kinder Morgan itself never detected the spill. In December 2014, local residents noticed dead plants, gasoline fumes, and pools of gasoline on the ground. Kinder Morgan has had spills up and down the Plantation Pipeline, which stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to Washington, D.C. Kinder Morgan had a previous spill in Anderson County, and yet another in Virginia since the Belton spill was discovered. Federal reports cite inadequate maintenance for many of Kinder Morgan spills. The Belton spill occurred at the site of an old patch to the pipeline that Kinder Morgan had not serviced in over 20 years.

“Because millions of people depend on the Savannah River watershed, pipeline spills cannot be allowed to go unchecked,” said Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper. “Illegal polluters like Kinder Morgan should be obligated to act quickly and effectively in cases like these to stop their contamination of our clean water.”

The suit asks that the United States District Court require Kinder Morgan to stop discharging petroleum pollution into the waterway, that Kinder Morgan be required to remove gasoline from the site, that Kinder Morgan put in place more effective treatment of groundwater before it reaches the stream, and that Kinder Morgan be required to pay substantial fines for its continuing illegal pollution. Under the Clean Water Act, Kinder Morgan can be fined up to $51,570 per violation per day. 


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