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Jet fuel leak in Tampa didn't contaminate water supply, officials say

TAMPA — Officials overseeing the cleanup of a pipeline spill say they have so far found no evidence that the leaked jet fuel contaminated the water supply or air.

Only three wells — two residential and one that serves a church — fall within a quarter mile of the pipeline breach, near the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Williams Road, near Mango, according to Steve Huard, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Health Department.

Those wells are being tested for possible contamination and results are expected in about three days. Meanwhile, officials have supplied bottled water to the residences, Huard said.

He said nearby properties on a public water supply are not at risk.

Crews have been working since Friday to clean up an estimated 31,500 gallons of jet fuel that released into a creek after a section of a 10-inch pipeline from Tampa to Orlando ruptured.

Officials say crews capped the leak and have stopped the fuel from flowing into the Tampa Bypass Canal.

"It seems to be pretty well contained," said Holley Wade, spokeswoman for Hillsborough Fire Rescue.

Officials discovered the leak after a citizen called 9-1-1 Friday night and reported the smell of fuel, Wade said.

But the general public did not learn of the incident until Sunday. Wade said she did not know why, but said that county emergency officials and others notified nearby residents before Sunday. She said there were door-to-door contacts.

The amount of jet fuel that may have leaked is the equivalent of four spilled tanker trucks, said Chris Russell, a coordinator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But he said the area is fortunate: Jet fuel is less flammable and relatively easier to clean up than a more viscous substance such as crude oil. And the fuel leaked onto the surface of a drainage ditch — not into a river.

That makes the incident significantly different, he said, than the thousands of gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana earlier this month.

Officials continue to investigate the exact cause of the Tampa leak. Initial reports indicate a third party conducting excavation work may be to blame, according to officials with Kinder Morgan, the contractor operating the pipeline. The pipeline supplies petroleum products to the Orlando area, including some to Orlando International Airport, officials said.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Jet fuel leak in Tampa didn't contaminate water supply, officials say 07/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 25, 2011 11:10pm]
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