A pipeline break discovered March 1 in southeast Utah spilled a mixture of oil and produced water that reached the San Juan River near Montezuma Creek, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A broken wellhead-gathering line operated by Elk Operating Services spilled about 28 barrels, or 1,176 gallons, into Bucket Wash and the San Juan River, according to an EPA incident report. One barrel equals 42 gallons. The source of the leak has been isolated and secured.
The spill flowed 3.5 miles down Bucket Wash with an estimated 3-4 barrels reaching the San Juan River. It flowed downstream to Sand Island Campground and boat launch, near Bluff, where cleanup crews were stationed.
Spill recovery is wrapping up, said Katherine Jenkins, community involvement coordinator for EPA Region 8.
Booms were placed in the San Juan River at the confluence of Bucket Wash and at Sand Island to prevent the oil slick from traveling farther downstream. Skimmers and vacuum trucks were deployed to remove the fluids. Cleanup was also done in Bucket Wash.
The cause of the pipeline break is under investigation, Jenkins said, and whether the company will face penalties has not been determined. The impacts of the oil spill on the environment also are being investigated.
The site of the release was on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and upstream of Navajo Nation lands.
After discovering the spill, Elk Operating Services took immediate action to address and contain the spill, according to the report. EPA mobilized one on-scene coordinator and two Superfund contractors to respond at the request of Utah Department of Environmental Quality on March 1.