Oil escapes cleanup booms, enters river; Accident discovered by aerial observers


Crews cleaning up the remains of the 111,000 gallons of fuel oil that spilled into the Patuxent River and some of its tributaries last month accidentally let some of that oil get back into the river on the Calvert County side yesterday.

The accident was discovered early in the afternoon by observers taking one of several daily flights over the river near Potomac Electric Power Co.'s Chalk Point plant to keep track of the cleanup effort. Crews maneuvered a containment boom around the oil and skimmed off the water, said Bob Dopkin, a PEPCO spokesman.

No wildlife was injured, but the oil stained parts of the Calvert County beach at the Patuxent River Bridge near Benedict, Dopkin said.

The crew was "flushing" a beach at the mouth of Craney Creek, on the Calvert County side of the river north of the bridge, by injecting water under the sand to force the oil out and into a containment boom. Some of the oil escaped the containment boom and ran into the river, Dopkin said.

The spill on April 7 originated in a 27-year-old pipeline that carries oil from a terminal at Piney Point in St. Mary's County to the plant in Prince George's and another in Charles County. The pipe apparently cracked while it was being cleaned for inspection.

An estimated 30 percent of the oil soaked into a marsh at the head of Swanson Creek, but the rest was washed over containment booms by high winds and flowed into the Patuxent. At one point, the plume of oil stretched 17 miles along the river, fouling 20 miles of beach.

Nearly 300 birds, muskrats, otters and snakes have been found dead in the area of the spill.

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