Natural gas condensate from KDHE leaked last Thursday when workers were conducting maintenance on the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline outside of Olpe, KN.
Just around 1,300 gallons of natural gas condensate ended up blown out of the pipeline, killing acres of soybean crops and leaving a dark, oily residue on some nearby buildings. KDHE said condensate ejected about 4,800 feet to the north of the site and a secondary plume extended about 15,000 feet from the site.
Natural gas condensate can include various toxins and can pose a health hazard. Through that condensate, there are a variety of toxins that could release into the environment, elements like benzene, xylene and cumulene, said Wally Pearce, retired manager of the environmental and safety department of Pacific Gas & Electric in California.
“Xylene, cumulate, benzene, those are all highly carcinogenic,” Pearce said. “The problem with that is they may be carcinogenic in a solid state but you add heat and it changes the structure and increases the toxicity of it. It makes it more lethal. These are carcinogenic materials.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers natural gas condensate a hazardous waste. The EPA also classifies benzene as a carcinogenic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said benzene is a chemical that is highly flammable. It does evaporate into the air very quickly but the vapor is heavier than water. Benzene floats on the surface of water and only dissolves slightly. Benzene can have serious health implications and can cause cancer.
“We can now approximate that about 1,300 gallons of this condensate was spilled,” said Sara Belfry, spokesperson for KDHE. “We know that there are 25 cars that need to be cleaned as a result and four farm ponds.”
Cleanup crews were on site Tuesday and efforts should continue for at least two weeks, though the time frame for completion is not concrete and can change as new issues or information arise.
“They started the clean-up efforts today (Tuesday),” said Belfry. “So those efforts should last for another week or two, just depending on how quick that cleanup is going.”