Bad Idea: Proposed Oil Pipelines To Run Through Mobile’s Drinking Water Supply

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An oil pipeline here?

By Glynn Wilson

Plans for an oil pipeline to run under the main drinking water source for residents of Mobile, Alabama to a Chevron Oil Refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi look like a bad idea, and not just to environmentalists. The Mobile Water Board is fighting the plan, but of course the Alabama Public Service Commission has already approved it with little public input.

Even one columnist at the conservative, Newhouse says it’s a bad idea, comparing it to the Macondo blowout caused by the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. What is not reported is that if the pressure works nationally to kill the XL Keystone pipeline from transporting the tar sands oil from Canada, there is already an alternative plan in the works to transport the oil by train to the Gulf Coast.

If the Houston, Texas-based company Plains Southcorp gets it’s way, if a rupture occurred along the 45-mile-long pipeline while it’s pumping at maximum capacity, the result could be a spill of 6,250 barrels an hour, twice the rate of the BP oil well blowout.

Is it worth risking 262,500 gallons of oil sloping toward Big Creek Lake, where the area’s fresh drinking water comes from?

A similar pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Arkansas in April, dumping more than 84,000 gallons of tar sands crude into a residential neighborhood and forcing the evacuation of 22 homes. The evacuations weren’t just because the oil is messy or inconvenient. Highly toxic and carcinogenic solvents like benzene are used to dilute tar sands crude to make it pumpable. During a spill, those toxics also evaporate into the air.

“This is the drinking supply for the whole city of Mobile (and) there’s only one,” Barbara Shaw of the Mobile Water Board told a local television news reporter (see video below). “We … sent a letter … saying this is not a good idea. This is not in the best interest of our customers or of our efforts to protect the water supply. Please see if you can reroute this pipeline. Their response was that they would assist us with funding a study to learn more about the pipeline and the possible risks.”

If not challenged in court and in public and defeated, the pipeline will be built under Hamilton Creek.

David Underhill, conservation chair of the Mobile Bay Sierra Club, is leading the fight against the pipeline. He discovered the proximity of the pipeline to Big Creek Lake while examining the PSC application, and he brought it to light at a recent Sierra Club meeting. He talked about recent spills across the nation and challenged the public to get involved to stop the pipeline.

“If you take one drop of motor oil or gas from your car and put it in a glass of water, and stir it up and try to drink it, you won’t your nose and mouth would rebel against that,” Underhill said. “How much risk is an acceptable risk when you are talking about a drinking water supply?”

The Mobile Bay Sierra Club is hosting another meeting to discuss “What Courses of Action Should Be Taken Regarding the Mobile Tar Sands Projects” on Tuesday evening, July 2 at 7 p.m. at the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center on the old Mobile Causeway.


In July 2010, a pipe segment ruptured into Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamazoo River in Calhoun County, Michigan. The rupture in the pipeline caused a spill in excess of 1 million gallons of bituminous tar sands heavy crude oil originating from Alberta, Canada. This led to human evacuation and contaminated drinking water.

“Three years and $1 billion later, the cleanup seems never ending and an impossible challenge because of the abrasive, corrosive, dirty composition of the bituminous tar sands oil product called diluted bitumen (dilbit) oil that the pipeline had been transporting,” Underhill said. “The EPA has now recommended to the State Department that pipelines that carry bituminous tar sands oil should no longer be treated just like pipelines that carry other oil products.”

Regardless of the fate of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline nationally, he says, a series of permits granted in 2012 mean Mobile would become a key U.S. delivery point for oil derived from Canadian tar sands for export to Asia and Europe, “unless we demand Public Hearings, here in Mobile, for these pipeline projects,” he said.

The Gulf Coast Asphalt Company and Arc Terminals, LP, have received the permits required to unload railcars full of Canadian Tar Sand oil at facilities along the Mobile River and expand their storage tank facility to accommodate tens of millions of gallons of oil along the Mobile River across from the Convention Center.

“Heavy tar sands oil requires heating to reduce viscosity and hold the oil to a more liquid state,” he said. “This operation requires the construction of a pipeline beneath the Mobile River to move tar sand oil from the rail terminal on the west bank to storage facilities on the east bank.”

The permit granted to Plains Southcamp that allows for the construction of an oil pipeline running from downtown Mobile to Ten-Mile Alabama and on to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula allows for the transport of 6 million gallons of oil a day, Underhill said.

“This proposed pipeline project consists of 11 stream crossings, 128 wetland crossings and horizontal directional drilling at the Escatawpa River, Black Creek, and Little Black Creek,” he said. “The project also consists of the expansion of the Plains Ten Mile Compressor Station (and) goes underneath the watershed that supplies the municipal drinking water for the city of Mobile. This pipeline could devastate ecosystems, pollute water sources and would jeopardize public health. The companies involved have been linked to 804 spills totaling around 6.8 million gallons of oil since 1999.”

Bad Idea

Sounds like a bad idea. But with former Alabama Governor Bob Riley’s aide Twinkle Cavanaugh running the Public Service Commission, it just looks like it’s time for another tea party in Alabamaland. Time to drink some tea party Kool-aid that is, topped off with a little crude?

Where’s the harm? If you believe BP and the lamestream media in these parts, the seafood in the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. Who cares about a little oil in your drinking water or fracking for methane gas in the national forest?

Oh, and by the way, global warming is a myth. Right.

Remember, god didn’t make the little green apples, and she doesn’t like her Earth fouled up. But try telling that to the Christian conservative Republican politicians.

Like Sarah Palin said, “Drill, baby, drill.”

WKRG News 5

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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