AQUASCO, MD (April 9, 2000) --Weather conditions challenge efforts to clean-up 111,000 gallons of fuel oil today in southern, rural Prince George’s County, Md. Unusually high winds and rains overnight blew oil, which had leaked into Swanson Creek and the surrounding marsh area on April 7, into the Patuxent River separating Prince George’s and Calvert counties, according to EPA and Pepco officials.
"Our first priorities are to re-contain this oil in Swanson’s Creek and to remove it from the Patuxent River," said Colby Stanton, EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator who has jurisdiction over the cleanup. "This will continue to be a challenge as long as the high winds persist." EPA is being assisted by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Wind and choppy tidal conditions are drawing the oil over portions of more than one-mile of containment booms in the creek. The majority of the affected area—45-acres of marshland—is on the property of Pepco’s Chalk Point Generating Station in Aquasco, MD., located at the confluence of Swanson Creek and the Patuxent River. However, a plume of oil extends beyond Swanson Creek into the Patuxent River to beyond the Route 381 bridge at Benedict, MD, two miles south of the plant.
U.S. Coast Guard officials and Pepco are bringing in open-water recovery equipment from Baltimore and Norfolk to work in the open river, while additional booms are being repositioned in the creek and marsh area. Vacuuming the oil into four tanker trucks continues into its second day. The marsh area is a natural habitat for muskrats and fish. About a dozen muskrats have died, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rescued three swans.
Pepco’s pipeline management company detected and confirmed the leak from a 12-mile branch of the 51-mile underground pipeline on April 7, at 6 pm. By 7 pm, the utility company had more than one mile of booms in place containing the Number 2 fuel oil, which is similar to home heating oil, and a slight amount of the heavier Number 6 oil. The pipeline management company, ST Services, was in the process of flushing and cleaning the 12-mile branch of the pipeline that serves the Chalk Point power plant in preparation for its regular inspection. The pipeline normally transports a heavier weight Number 6 oil used to generate electricity during the peak-use summer and winter months.
According to John M. Derrick, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Potomac Electric Power Company, "The guidance and cooperation from the many government agencies who have responded here has played a significant and positive role in managing the impact of this unfortunate accident. We are eager to protect the wildlife and sensitive wetland area and intend to restore the marsh and any other affected shoreline to their original beauty."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking steps to rescue and protect any animals, birds or fish that may be in danger. The Maryland Department of the Environment is conducting an environmental impact assessment that includes the wetlands and the waterways. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation of the pipeline leak and Pepco is cooperating with all of these efforts.
Chalk Point Generating Station is the largest power plant in Maryland, using coal, oil and natural gas to generate electricity. It is one of Pepco’s six power plants that serve Washington, DC and the Maryland suburbs and provides electricity to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative.