A group of residents impacted by the June 23 Grove/Hall Canyon Oil Spill are organizing and getting information from the pipeline operator Crimson. Here is an update from Robert Chianese Regarding a July 26 meeting of the Ventura Oil Spill Neighbors (VOSN)
Notes On July 26 2016 Meeting at Henning and Linda Ottsen’s house
Ventura Oil Spill Neighbors
- getting information about the spill
- being involved in high level decisions making about the clean up and aftermath
- the potential duration and thoroughness of the cleanup process, and the long-term aftermath.
- Pres. Larry Alexander of Crimson pipeline and Yvonne Addassi of the Department of Fish and wildlife attended to answer our questions.
About 25 local neighbors directly impacted by the Grove/Hall Canyon oil leak came together primarily to get answers to fundamental questions about what happened, what the cleanup will involve.
General Information and new methods of Keeping Neighbors and the Community Informed
We first learned that while the cleanup firms Patriot and NRC may have cleaned up oil out of a barranca before, they have not had experience with private properties in or near a barranca. Their attention therefore is to the various agencies involved in the cleanup and the federally required Unified Command, but not to the local neighbors and surrounding community. This is a prime source of the confusion, frustration, and anger locals feel. Even at the meetings at City Hall (June 30) and at the Midtown Council (July 14), whose purpose was to disseminate information about the spill and clean up, we still did not receive either accurate or thorough information about what has been going on in Prince Barranca especially about the start up of the pipe so soon after the leak. Since the source of the spill is under investigation, we still cannot know what caused it and why the pipe came back into service so soon (though signs indicate it was a faulty valve or a faulty installation of the valve and not the pipeline itself.)
We first struck an agreement with Addassi and Alexander about making certain we know as much about this spill and the cleanup and the aftermath as possible. To this end we requested and received assurances that Addassi would send out regular email reports to the assembled individual neighbors, which will keep us better informed about details of work on the spill. In addition we will be an assigned a point person whom we can question about our concerns. We will also have a weekly meeting with members of the various onsite organizations. And finally, Addassi will present the idea to the Unified Command or to its environmental division that we will have a representative in either group to join in the debate and discussion of the work on the spill, with the possibility that such a representative can not only discuss but also offer opinions about the planned work and also be able to vote on items that affect us.
We learned that the main objectives of the cleanup are: 1. Public health and safety 2. Workers’ safety 3. No further damage to wildlife (But no mention of our property values.)
During the cleanup process a priority is to cause no further damage by over-cleaning the barranca.
The cleanup has at least three phases.
One is the removal of the 45,000 barrels of liquid oil itself. That phase is generally complete.
Two is cleaning of rocks, removal of vegetation and debris touched by oil, and then soil removal itself, and a determination of what can be left in the soil. To this end engineering studies are now underway to assess how deeply the oil penetrated in various soils along the barranca and how deeply the soil can be removed without disturbing the stability of the barranca. We stated we need to see those reports, due next week. They stated that cleaning out 100% of the oil is neither possible nor safe and health effects will not be significant from the oil left in the ground.
The Third phase is long term monitoring, particularly after rains and the passage of time, when soil could be disturbed and moved and new signs of off gassing be detected. This will be carefully monitored.
Answers to Specific Questions
Q: How come the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) did not know, as it claimed at the June 30 Meeting, that the pipeline was coming back on line right away?
A: Our representatives there should have known that. We apologize. However, since the cause of the spill/leak is still under investigation, we cannot offer public explanations of why the pipeline leaked and was able to be started right up again; it was deemed safe (by the State Fire Marshal).
Q: You have monitored air quality at many points throughout the area, but not in our backyards. Why?
A: Our monitoring indicates there is no health hazard from the fumes from the oil.
Comment: You have air quality data on the street sides of our homes (published in the report) but no data on the barranca side of our homes. Data is taken in the barranca where the workers are. We suggest that this data should be published as well and an extrapolation made of what the readings might be where we are breathing the air.
Q: Where does/ do the pipelines actually cross the barranca?
A: We do not know. We will provide a map.
Q: Will it eventually be safe for kids to play in the barranca, as before?
A: We can't determine that at this time.
Q: Are trees, such as the eucalyptus holding up the banks by our houses, affected by the oil?
A: We can try to find out, from biologists.
Q: As we have to declare the spill when we sell our houses, what can we say about it?
A: We will provide the community a “No Further Action” letter indicating that the clean up has met all required clean up actions and is finished. It will not mean that there is no oil there at all.
Q: What about property values?
A: Obviously, selling a house right now may be not the best idea. In three months after clean up, a bank could lend money to a buyer if the site is declared clean. Comparable valuations by a bank or realtor may not find any significant drop in a home’s value due to the cleaned up spill. But there could be a drop in value due to the spill. (We claimed financing would be very difficult if there is any remaining oil.)
Q: Does your insurance cover all the work required here?
A: We have very substantial insurance to cover this spill (through Lloyds of London).
Q: What if our houses devalue to the point we can’t sell them? Would you buy them?
A: We would have to look at that. (They said they have enough insurance to purchase houses, a precedent being Avila Beach where an oil company purchased the whole town and rebuilt it.)
Robert Chianese for Ventura Oil Spill Neighbors (VOSN)
Larry Alexander, President/COO, Crimson Pipeline
Yvonne Addassi, Acting Deputy Administrator, Department of Fish and Wildlife