Damaged pipeline spills 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel

Charges considered in break near Cottonwood

Photo by Deb Gau Booms, trucks and other cleanup equipment could be seen at work in a drainage ditch running beneath the BNSF railroad tracks just south of Hanley Falls on Thursday. Cleanup crews were working to contain and recover thousands of gallons of diesel fuel released from a pipeline north of Cottonwood on Wednesday night. Fuel entered Judicial Ditch 24, which flows into the Yellow Medicine River.

Damage to a pipeline that leaked an estimated 8,400 gallons of diesel fuel north of Cottonwood appears to have been caused by a person, the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office said.

The Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it has identified a suspect believed to be responsible for the damage, and has referred the matter to the Lyon County Attorney’s office for consideration of charges.

Around 75 people were working in Lyon and Yellow Medicine Counties on Thursday morning, to contain diesel fuel released from an 8-inch Magellan pipeline near Cottonwood Wednesday night, Magellan spokespeople said.

The fuel entered Yellow Medicine/Lyon Judicial Ditch 24, which flows into the Yellow Medicine River near Hanley Falls, said Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten. Work crews could be seen in different areas along 10 miles of the ditch system, using equipment like booms to prevent the fuel from entering natural waterways.

Crews were also using equipment to absorb or skim the diesel out of the ditch.

“They have several points in (the ditch system) where they’re doing recovery,” said Forrest Peterson, public information officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

In a media update Thursday afternoon, Magellan said “minor remnants” of petroleum had passed through containment areas along the drainage ditch, and into the Yellow Medicine River. Cleanup operations are continuing on the ditch, spokespeople said.

Work crews included emergency responders, federal, state and local agencies, and Magellan employees. Magellan spokesman Bruce Heine said responders were working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the MPCA, and the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety.

Magellan spokespeople said the incident has put a segment of the company’s pipeline between Willmar and Marshall out of service. However, Magellan has alternative supply options in the region, and a shortage of gasoline or diesel in the Marshall area is not expected.

The fuel release was reported around 8:30 Wednesday night, Magellan spokespeople said. Operators at Magellan’s pipeline control center observed a pressure drop associated with a refined products pipeline near Cottonwood. Magellan representatives closed valves on the system.

A leak in the pipeline was located in Section 5 of Lucas Township, the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department said. Sheriff’s deputies from Lyon and Yellow Medicine Counties, along with the Cottonwood and Marshall Fire Departments, responded to the scene.

The pipeline contained diesel fuel, and was not active at the time of the incident, Magellan said. The fuel was found to be leaking from a small hole in the pipeline, which was stopped around 10:30 p.m.

Initially, Magellan estimated 1,500 barrels of diesel had been released in the incident. However, after further analysis, the estimate was lowered Thursday to 200 barrels, or 8,400 gallons, Heine said.

Flaten said sections of Yellow Medicine County Road 18 and County Road 43 remain temporarily closed, to allow responders and equipment to enter and leave work sites.

Magellan spokespeople said there have been no evacuations as a result of the pipeline release. As of Thursday afternoon, there was one minor injury reported, in a worker on the cleanup response.

Flaten said conditions along JD 24 did pose some challenges for cleanup efforts, and the safety of workers.

“The ditch is flowing at a pretty rapid pace,” Flaten said Thursday.

On Thursday, law enforcement were asking anyone with information related to the pipeline damage to contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at 507-537-7666, or the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff’s Office at 320-564-2130.