Officials say a natural gasoline pipeline is leaking into the flooded Missouri River somewhere between Onawa, Iowa and Decatur, Nebraska. The leak was discovered early Saturday after the pipeline lost pressure.
Kathy Lee, a member of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Emergency Response unit, says teams are searching for signs of the leak from the air, from boats and from the ground level.
“On Sunday, they started vacuuming out the pipeline to remove any residual product,” Lee says. “They were hoping they would draw river water into the pipeline and then, based on where the river water was coming in, that would help them determine the location of the leak.”
If the source of the leak isn’t found today, Lee say specially-trained scuba diving teams will be sent down into the turbulent water on Tuesday. She says it’s likely that erosion from the flooding, which has lasted more than two months, uncovered the once-buried pipeline on the Iowa side of the border.
“They suspect the pipeline is leaking in the floodplain of the Missouri River as opposed to being underneath the Missouri River,” Lee says. “There would have been about three feet of overburden in that area of the floodplain and they suspect that cover or overburden has washed away.”
The pipeline is owned and operated by Enterprise Products of Houston, Texas. Natural gasoline evaporates quickly and she says there have been no fish kills or any other problems associated with the leak. Lee says, “We haven’t received any reports of adverse effects either on wildlife, aquatic life or from any of our public water supplies along the river.”
The eight-inch pipeline was closed off over the weekend after the leak was discovered and contained more than 140,000 gallons of natural gasoline. The fluid is not the same as natural gas. Natural gasoline is an unrefined light-weight liquid, clear to light amber in color. It’s used in the making of ethanol and has several other industrial applications.
Lee says a second pipeline carrying propane runs in the same trench as the natural gasoline pipeline. Company officials are burning off propane on the Nebraska side of the river as a precaution.