Following is a condensed summary of talking points prepared for Plains representatives Rick McMichael and Patrick Hodgins in connection with the news conference held on May 27, 2015 at 3pm:
Recovery Effort and Excavation Updates
Source: Rick McMichael, Senior Director of Operations, Plains All American Pipeline
In each work zone of the recovery effort, our immediate goal has been to remove the visible oil as quickly as possible, taking into account safety, cultural and environmental sensitivities. In the areas where we are nearing this goal, we have begun the next major step, which is a more deliberate survey of areas to search for remaining oil. This is the normal course of action for all response and recovery efforts. The Unified Command has already anticipated this step. Together, we have developed plans, working with NOAA and other relevant state and federal agencies, on how to look for and address pipeline oil that may be underground or underwater. We will continue this pattern of “clean and re-survey” until, together, as Unified Command, we deem that the cleanup work is completed.
Based on air reconnaissance flights, nearly all the visible oil has been removed from the water’s surface. However, areas continue to pop up as a result of wave and tidal actions and we continue to use skimmers and booms to capture this oil and the associated sheen that emanates from those breakout areas.
We have been advised by experts with significant experience in the Santa Barbara area that some of the oil sheen seen on the water is associated with natural seeps that have been occurring for hundreds of years. Our boats have continued to skim some of this oil as well. We are now entering into the next step in the cleanup process and are actively re-surveying the area, including searching for pipeline oil below the surface. To do this, we are using boats with sonar and diver teams who are knowledgeable about these waters to conduct this search. We also are working with NOAA and UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) to determine whether any oil found is from the release or from the natural seeps in the area.
UCSB divers searched an area east of Refugio State Beach, where they believed submerged oil was most likely to be found. These divers observed some oil in four areas near the seafloor. One had minimal oil and in the other three areas, the divers observed pea-sized droplets of oil as well as aggregations of oil-and-seaweed, the largest of which was the size of a pillow. We don’t know the amount of oil at this time, but it is approximately 20 feet underwater and about 150 yards off the beach. Unified Command has already approved a plan in anticipation of this. That plan provides an approved set of methods to capture this oil. We will work with federal, state and local agencies to choose the best option to address this oil, evaluating pre-approved capture methods and conducting additional analysis. We respect this sensitive biological area and truly regret that this incident has affected them.
On the beaches, workers continue to manually clean oil from the cliff face and large stationary rocks. We are also collecting oiled seaweed and kelp from the shoreline.
On the bluffs, the area west of the southbound 101, we are awaiting approval from Unified Command to proceed with recovery efforts.
The culvert zone is another area where we have completed the initial cleanup. We are currently in the process of re-surveying this area to determine what additional work is necessary.
Excavation and Release Site Updates and Claims
Source: Patrick Hodgins, Senior Director of Safety & Security, Plains All American Pipeline
At the release site we are nearing completion of the excavation of the oiled soil around the affected pipeline. We are now collecting soil samples to determine whether further soil needs to be removed. Our remaining efforts in this zone are focused on removing the affected segment of pipe. To do so, we are executing the work plan approved by our federal regulators, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Unified Command.
Yesterday, we completed the process of digging out the soil from around the pipeline and preparing the work site to make it safe for today’s removal. We next made cuts in the pipeline on either side of the affected section and it will be wrapped to preserve the conditions of the pipe during transport. During this process we used protective measures to ensure we were able to capture any oily residue remaining in the pipe. We are also removing the oiled soil from beneath the pipe.
We know that the community is interested in the cause, but we are not in a position to discuss what the pipe looks like – or anything about the affected piece of pipe – until after the investigation is completed. We appreciate your understanding.
For those who have questions or who would like to submit a claim, please call 866-753-3619. We are actively addressing claims as they are received. We currently plan to have trained claims processors at a booth at Saturday’s open house at the Elks Lodge.
We regret any impact this unfortunate accidental release has caused and are working diligently to provide relief. Thank you.