A brief oil spill was detected and stopped near the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week.
While the spill released approximately 10 gallons of crude oil and 420 gallons of extraction waste water Tuesday, environmental officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge said the incident is not expected to have any significant impacts on plant or animal life and the cleanup process is being monitored by federal officials.
Here are five things to know about oil spills around Lake Texoma and other bodies of water.
1. How Tuesday’s spill happened
“Lake Texoma is very salty and that helps facilitate the corrosion of the underground flow lines,” Hagerman Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley said. “They often get a pin-sized leak in them, and the pressure then forces it up and out. That’s what happened Tuesday and it largely released onto the site pad and only a very minimal amount near the water. We’re fortunate that we found it quickly.”
2. How the USACE and Hagerman responds to spills
USACE Environmental Specialist James Vincent said the oil and gas companies which produce on Lake Texoma are responsible for rectifying any spills and USACE specialists monitor their work throughout the cleanup process.
“First, they try to minimize the extent of the spill and the area that’s impacted,” Vincent said. “The cleanup effort involves removing oil that has been lost with absorbent materials. Sometimes it also requires soil remediation, so the oil and gas company is then responsible for removing the affected soil, disposing of it properly and then replacing it with the appropriate type of soil. Monitoring of the area then follows to make sure it rebounds.”
Whaley said refuge staff also work with the energy companies, but respond themselves to spill sites and check on the status of water quality and assess the impacts to plant and animal life.
3. How many oil spills occur in the U.S. each year?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that thousands of oil spills affect U.S. waters each year, but most are small and amount to less than one barrel or 42 gallons. But even small spills can cause major harm depending on the location, the season, environmental sensitivity, and the type of oil lost.
Since 1969, NOAA reports that there have been 44 spills of 10,000 barrels or more.
4. The largest spill in U.S. history
In 2010, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon well, situated off the cost of Louisiana, was rocked by a natural gas explosion which killed 11 workers and injured another 17. The resulting spill proved disastrous for the surrounding environment and industries and released 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a number of months, according to NOAA.
Other estimates place the total volume spilled as high as 210 million gallons. Compensation and cleanup efforts amounted to more than $40 billion.
5. How spills affect plant and animal life
NOAA reports that plants and animals are harmed in two ways by oil spills: from the oil itself and during the cleanup process.
The chemical compounds in spilled oil essentially acts as a poison and affects organisms through ingestion and inhalation or through external exposure. Oil can smother small species of fish or invertebrates and cover feathers and fur, preventing birds and other mammals from maintaining their body temperatures.
Drew Smith is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at DSmith@HeraldDemocrat.com.