Delta National Wildlife Refuge oil spill response continues

VENICE, La. – The area impacted by oil spilled from an underwater pipeline in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge continues to shrink as more workers, vessels and equipment are deployed to assist in cleanup operations.

Cypress Pipe Line Company (CPL), which operates the pipeline, reports that approximately 18,000 gallons of crude oil has been released.

An area of approximately 17.5 square miles is currently impacted by the spill, down from 136 square miles yesterday.

“The Coast Guard, the State of Louisiana and the Cypress Pipe Line Company have the right resources and people in place to address the situation,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Kevin Lopes, the Coast Guard unified commander for the response. “We’re making good progress. “

More than 90 people and 21 vessels are now at the scene conducting and managing cleanup operations and environmental protection efforts, which include recovery of the oil and attempting to keep wildlife out of the impacted area. More than 16,000 feet of containment boom have been deployed to enclose the oil.

Since containment boom presents a potential safety hazard for marine vessels, government officials that manage the area advise boaters to avoid the area this weekend.

“We strongly encourage boaters and anglers to steer clear until the cleanup is completed,” said Drew Wirwa, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There has been minimal impact to wildlife. Response teams report observing six birds and one alligator that appear to have come into contact with oil. Since wild animals under stress can be very dangerous, untrained people should not attempt to assist impacted wildlife. Instead, they should report the species and location of the animal to the toll free wildlife hotline at 877-424-5495.

The incident was first reported at approximately 1 a.m., Tuesday. At that time, Berry Brothers General Contractors were conducting dredging operations for ExxonMobil in the area of the spill. They notified the Coast Guard that oil was discharging into a canal located approximately 10 miles southeast of Venice, La.

Upon receiving the initial report of the spill, CPL immediately closed off the affected section of the pipeline and initiated its emergency response procedures to minimize the environmental impact of the spill.

The Coast Guard is working to find the cause of the spill.

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