WASHINGTON -- Colonial Pipeline Co. has agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine, spend up to $2.5 million for new outdoor public recreation facilities, and to restore natural resources in and around Sugarland Run and the Potomac River, repairing damage from a massive 1993 oil spill from the company's pipeline in Reston, Va.
The proposed settlement was lodged October 21 by the Justice Department in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The spill, which occurred in March 1993, released about 407,000 gallons of diesel fuel into Sugarland Run. Despite emergency efforts to contain the spill, about 48 square miles of surface water, shorelines, islands, and wetlands were contaminated. The entire length of Sugarland Run was severely contaminated, threatening water supplies in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The oil flowed down Sugarland Run and into the Potomac River, creating oil slicks on the river.
W. Michael McCabe, EPA regional administrator said: "Pollution freely crosses state boundaries, and has no regard for bureaucratic structures. Today's settlement shows the benefits of federal-state cooperation in enforcing our nation's environmental laws."
The spill, which occurred during the height of the white perch spawning run in these waters, injured and killed fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals. Some federal park areas had to be closed to the public because of the spill.
Under the proposed settlement, Colonial will pay a $1.5 million civil penalty, to be split evenly between the federal government and Virginia, and reimburse the federal government, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for the costs of assessing damages to natural resources. Also, Colonial will pay $254,314 to help fund the construction of the fish passage over Little Falls Dam on the Potomac River that will be built by the District of Columbia, Maryland, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The proposed settlement also requires Colonial to restore or rehabilitate natural resources in and around Sugarland Run and the Potomac River that were damaged by the spill, and pay the monitoring and oversight costs of these projects. These projects include restoring wetlands, aquatic habitats, and enhancing forests. They are designed to compensate the public for depriving it of the use and enjoyment of parklands affected by the spill. Other projects the company will perform include constructing a bike path near Herndon linking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail to the Fairfax County Sugarland trail; constructing a wildlife observation area at Dyke Marsh Wildlife preserve near Belle Haven Marina in the George Washington Memorial Parkway; and storm water management controls in the Sugarland Run area.
The settlement is the result of more than four years of studies and negotiations among representatives of Colonial, the Department of Interior, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
The settlement will be published in the Federal Register and is subject to a 30 day public comment period, after which the court will consider approving the settlement.
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