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Plan to treat water at gasoline spill site faces a hearing Thursday

081021 Colonial pipeline tanks.JPG
David Boraks
Colonial Pipeline has been storing wastewater in tanks on the pipeline site in Huntersville's Oehler Nature Preserve, off Huntersville-Concord Road. The company wants to start treating the water on-site and releasing cleaned water into a nearby creek. (David Boraks/WFAE)

A public hearing is planned in Huntersville Thursday night on Colonial Pipeline's plans to process and release treated wastewater into a creek at the site of a massive 2020 gasoline spill.

Colonial's contractors are still cleaning up from the August 2020 incident, which leaked about 2 million gallons of gasoline into the soil at a nature preserve east of downtown Huntersville. That made it the nation's largest-ever gasoline pipeline spill on land.

Colonial is seeking a permit to filter fuel and other contaminants out of the recovered groundwater on-site, then release the cleaned water into the North Prong Clark Creek. The company says that's the best alternative to trucking wastewater off-site.

"The next phase of recovery and remediation of the Huntersville site requires full operation of the hydraulic control well system," Colonial Pipeline said in a statement. "This is a critical component in preventing the migration of underground product (gasoline). The well system and other recovery wells will bring to the surface water that must be treated. Treating the groundwater on-site avoids the disruptive and potentially less safe approach of trucking it away for treatment and ensures the water stays in the local watershed."

The State Department of Environmental Quality says shipping wastewater elsewhere would require 115 trucks operating 24 hours a day for an unspecified time.

The hearing begins at 6 p.m. at Central Piedmont Community College's Merancas Campus in Huntersville.

To see the draft permit and other details, visit the NCDEQ website.

Read Colonial's summary of its plans for treating the recovered groundwater at https://sr2448.colonialresponse.com/


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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.