A leak was discovered in the Birmingham Colonial Pipeline by a mining inspector late Thursday evening. Running all the way from Houston to New York, the pipeline services over 50 million people and is the main gasoline vein connecting Houston to the entire Eastern Seaboard. So far, an estimated 250,000 gallons of gasoline have leaked from the pipeline and into the ecosystems just south of Birmingham.
This could be catastrophic
Many are hoping the gasoline leaks do not reach the nearby Cahuba River, Alabama's longest free-flowing stream. The Cahuba River also happens to be one of the most biologically diverse spots in the country, home to various endangered plant and animal species, such as the Cahuba lily.
The pipeline was shut off upon initial discovery, yet, it is possible more leaks may exist in the surrounding areas. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal have declared a state of emergency, while over 500 workers attempt to clean up the aftermath of the spill.
According to the Colonial Pipeline, "...the top priority of the unified response team remains the safety and protection of the public, responders and the #Environment." Efforts to construct a bypass line around the leak site have already begun. Locals are very concerned about the environmental and health impacts of the spill, and they are not to blame; gasoline is extremely toxic. Petroleum-derived contaminants are known sources of environmental degradation and pose serious health risks if and when exposed.
Not the first time
Alabama is still recovering from an oil spill that happened along its coast back in 2010. Since 2010, the local Nature Conservancy has spent ample time, energy, and resources in attempts to alleviate the effects of the spill. Nearly five years later, tar balls are still washing up on their shores. Response and recovery efforts, they claim, "could go on for years."