Lubbock Mayor signs emergency declaration after LAH oil spill - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/7/10

Lubbock Mayor signs emergency declaration after Lake Alan Henry oil spill

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By Ann Wyatt Little - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Mayor Tom Martin has issued a declaration of emergency just days after what was left of Hurricane Alex washed out parts of the South Plains. Under the proclamation, the city would be eligible through FEMA for up to 75 percent of what it spent responding to Alex.

The record rainfall forced people to barricade their homes with sandbags and city personnel logged hours of overtime helping citizens in need. Once the weather clears up, the city will inspect sewer lines and parks around town for any water related damage.

The same storm is to blame for two broken oil pipes near the Brazos River that flows into Lake Alan Henry. The company that owns the lines, Plains All American Pipeline, estimates almost 7,000 gallons of crude leaked out and is currently trapped by containment booms stretched across the water.

The command post set up at the lake and city leaders are watching what all this rain in our forecast could do the oil sheen on top of the river. The waters were raging near the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River over the weekend and Mayor Tom Martin hopes the waters don't look like this again. "If we get additional rain it could wash the oil toward the lake but hopefully the booms can handle it. We aren't out of the woods yet," said Mayor Martin.

The company that owns the lines deployed teams to clean up their mess and crews will lay two additional booms on the river Thursday. The company is footing the bill for the clean up, but the city is paying employees to monitor the situation and for water tests.  

"Any oil in the water is not good," said Jeff Bertl, the regional director for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Bertl and his team are working to make sure the water is safe.

The TCEQ shipped water samples to area labs the commission contracts with. Those results are expected sometime in the next five days to two weeks. "It's already the drinking source for people who live at the lake and that's our primary concern right now is to make sure the oil does not contaminate the water that serves those people," Bertl added.

The line that the South Garza Water Corporation collects water from the lake is 25 feet below the water's surface. The company is using reservoir tanks and back up wells in the meantime. "It is rather difficult at this stage for water supply to become contaminated but the plant has shut down," said Bertl.

Mayor Martin says shutting down the intake pipe is the wise thing to do, and what the city would do if a similar situation happens when that water flows out of our taps in two years. The water plant that the city is building at Lake Alan Henry will have two outdoor reservoirs that look like ponds. The city says the water can be processed if there is a disruption in the pipeline somewhere else.

City officials flew over the area in a helicopter Wednesday to assess the spill and there are no reports of oil in Lake Alan Henry. Council will meet Thursday during an emergency session to ratify the disaster proclamation.

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