A once-“pristine” nature preserve flooded by a crude oil spill three years ago from a ruptured pipeline will cost Sunoco $923,000.
Sunoco will pay to help remove invasive plants that have moved in since recovery efforts began and for future work if a restoration plan fails in the polluted portions of Oak Glen Nature Preserve, a wetland forest in Ohio, home to a unique variety of inhabitants, including a few endangered species.
Sunoco did not, however, accept responsibility for the spill.
The company “continues to dispute both that it, Mid-Valley (the pipeline operator), Sunoco Logistics or any of their affiliates caused any impacts to the Oak Glen Preserve,” the signed settlement agreement said.
Oak Glen had been described as “pristine” by park officials before a crack formed in a 60-year-old underground Sunoco pipe moving oil from Texas to Michigan.
The breach gushed 21,000 gallons of crude oil –equal to 500 barrels – into a stream and marshy pond near East Miami River Road in Colerain Township.
Three years later, restoration work continues with a completion date projected for next summer.
The spill managed to stay out of nearby water wells and the Great Miami River, but 35 animals died as a result, including salamanders, toads, frogs and crayfish.
A local man, Gary M. Broughton, discovered the spill as he drove down East Miami River Road March 17, 2014. Broughton reported an oil smell so strong it caused him to stop and investigate. He discovered a large oil sheen stretching across the watery landscape.
It was never determined how long the oil had been oozing out. Age and stress caused the crack to form, said Great Parks Executive Director Jack Sutton.
A lot of other work was directly paid for by Sunoco, but the total cost of the cleanup has not been released by the company.
“Sunoco Pipeline is committed to working cooperatively with Great Parks of Hamilton County, along with state and federal regulators, to restore the stream and habitats in the Oak Glen Nature Preserve, a goal we have been working on diligently and continuously since the early days of the release in 2014,” said Jeff Shields, communications manager.
“We have made great progress,” Shields continued, “and look forward to completing the restoration of Oak Glen to the satisfaction of all parties.”
So far, Great Parks has received $213,000 from Sunoco, reimbursements for money that has already been spent on Oak Glen expenses. It will pay another $650,000 for cleanup costs Great Parks has already incurred and $60,000 for future costs.
Nearly all of the $1 million covers fees for consultants and lawyers, brought in to help protect and guide the park district through the process of restoring the public property, Sutton said. Some of the money also reimbursed Great Parks’ staff time spent on the restoration project.
Sutton said the agreement recoups about 80 percent of Great Parks’ costs.
The work is not yet done. A containment wall, created to keep oil out of other areas, is currently being removed and in the spring, the gravel lots and other remnants of the cleanup process will end up restored.