Questions Remain Over Wilmington Oil Seepage

The oil left a lingering stench in a South Bay neighborhood, residents say

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    An oil leak in a Wilmington neighborhood came from an underground pipe that was capped by its owners 15 years ago. But experts say the leak, which may have been triggered by an earthquake that morning, could have been worse. Hetty Chang reports from Wilmington for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

    A Southern California neighborhood is back to normal after more than 1,200 gallons of crude oil came bubbling out of a damaged pipeline.

    The city of Los Angeles confirms it’s a pipeline that was taken out of service and capped by its owners in 1998.

    “The companies in the past may not have completely purged it out,” said Bob Gorham, a division chief for the California Fire Marshal’s Office. “They may have made an attempt, but it’s difficult sometimes to get all the product out. So it's kind of like how clean is clean?”

    Cleanup Continues in Wilmington After Oil Leak

    [LA] Cleanup Continues in Wilmington After Oil Leak
    A leaking underground pipe created a mess before crews were finally able to cap it. Hetty Chang reports from Wilmington for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.

    Underground in LA County is 2,200 miles of pipeline. Some of it is more than 100 years old.

    Industry experts say pipelines are bought and sold often and that there are so many other pipes in the ground that it makes inspecting exactly what’s in the pipelines challenging.

    “We have to take the operator's word for a lot of that stuff,” said Gorham, whose office ensures pipeline operators are in compliance when taking a pipeline out of service.

    What that means is the line or segment of the line must be cleaned of all hazardous liquids.

    It needs to be isolated from an active pipeline system.

    That doesn't always happen, as was the case in Wilmington.

    While crews managed to contain the leak to a small area, things could have been worse, had the leak not surfaced when it did Monday, officials said.

    “The soil contamination could be an issue over time if it's not properly done,” Gorham said.

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