Refugio State Beach. Image courtesy of Tortie tude/Wikimedia Commons.

California water regulators are seeking fines for a May pipeline spill that released an estimated 101, 000 gallons of crude a near Santa Barbara.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has referred the spill to California’s top prosecutor, who could seek penalties of up to $25,000 per day of violation in addition to $25 for every gallon of oil spilled.

“The Water Board will work closely with the Attorney General’s office to make sure all those responsible for the Refugio spill face the strongest enforcement measures allowed by law,” said Regional Board Chair Dr. Jean Pierre Wolff said.

According to the agency, clean up is ongoing at Refugio State Beach after a pipeline operated by Plains All American ruptured and spilled about 2,500 barrels of crude oil with an undetermined substantial amount of petroleum reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Houston-based Plains has been working alongside federal and state agencies during the clean up effort.

“As the cleanup phase nears completion and activities involved with the restoration of the environment and the investigation into the cause come more to the forefront, we will continue cooperating with the agencies involved,” Plains spokeswoman Meredith Mathews told Reuters.

 The line, known as Line 901, was shut down on May 19, about half an hour after pressure irregularities.
Despite the rapid response, the spill polluted a four mile stretch of beach and created oil slicks that extend about nine miles along the coastline.
Plains has also voluntarily shutdown Line 903 that is connected to the failed pipeline.
 A preliminary report from U.S. Department of Transportation identified four areas of the ruptured line that showed “pipe anomalies requiring immediate investigation and remediation.”
“Third-party metallurgists in the field estimated that corrosion at the failure site had degraded the wall thickness to an estimated 1/16 of an inch (.0625″),” the report said.

According to the LA Times, Plains All American conducted an internal inspection of Line 901 prior to the rupture but didn’t receive the preliminary results until days after the spill.

An internal pipeline inspection conducted by Plains found the line’s wall was thicker than the measurements included in the report.

The company said in June that it was working with federal officials to understand the measurement discrepancies.


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