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THE NATION

Oil Spill Blackens Louisiana Coast Area

April 07, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — A pipeline rupture sent about 90,000 gallons of oil pouring into a southeast Louisiana coastal area known as Little Lake on Saturday.

Owner BP Amoco shut down the pipeline as soon as it became aware of the spill and notified Garner Environmental, which dispatched five boats to begin containment and cleanup, said company spokesman Neil Chapman.

It was not immediately clear what caused the rupture or to what extent the spill may have damaged marine or coastal wildlife.

"We're trying to keep the oil away from the critters, and if some do get in trouble we have specialists who are trained to rehabilitate them," said BP spokesman Daren Beaudo, who was on the scene.

Coast Guard officials said BP Amoco sent a plane to assess the damage.

Little Lake is mostly surrounded by marshland but connects to Barataria Bay and the Gulf of Mexico at Louisiana's far southeastern coast, about 35 miles south of New Orleans.

Cleanup crews had 40,000 feet of containment boom in the water, but some oil had reached land and started up a canal.

"There will be some shoreline impact, and we're trying to prevent any more," Beaudo said. "The wind out here has been kind of tricky."

He said the cleanup could take several days.

Chapman said company engineers had yet to determine what caused the rupture in the line, which runs from the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port to the Alliance Refinery near New Orleans.

Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Murphy described the slick as a large ribbon being pushed by the wind toward the shoreline, where cleanup crews were able to corral most of it.

"It's staying in one area of the lake," he said. BP "had a fast response with a lot of resources."

The worst Louisiana spill in recent years dumped half a million gallons from the tanker Westchester into the Mississippi River in November 2000.

The Westchester spill was the largest in U.S. waters since the Exxon Valdez dumped more than 10 million gallons of oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in March 1989.

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