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Raging Floodwaters Cause Kansas Refinery Oil Spill

KANSAS CITY, Kansas, July 3, 2007 (ENS) - Emergency management officials are trying to contain damage from an oil refinery spill in Coffeyville, Kansas that occurred over the weekend when raging floodwaters breached a levee Sunday as heavy rains swept the southeastern section of the state.

At the Coffeyville Resources Refinery more than 42,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the overflowing Verdigris River, where a smelly oil slick is now flowing south towards Oklahoma.

The Coffeyville Resources Refinery on the Verdigris River before the flood and oil spill. (Photo courtesy Coffeyville Resources
The 108,000 barrel-per-day refinery and associated nitrogen fertilizer plant remain shut down due to record flooding on the Verdigris River. Flood waters that broke the Coffeyville levee Sunday have yet to recede.

Despite difficult conditions, company representatives entered the operations by boat for a preliminary assessment today, in addition to monitoring the plant by air.

"While the sustained flooding limits our ability to make a full assessment of the facilities, Coffeyville Resources management can confirm that a refinery tank containing crude oil that overflowed during the flood’s early hours has been isolated and secured," the company said in a statement today.

The company says officials are working closely with local, state and federal health and environmental authorities to monitor the situation and assist in the community.

"We will conduct a full assessment as soon as the flood waters have receded and it is safe to enter the facility," they said. "The nitrogen fertilizer facility, located at a higher elevation, was less impacted but also remains closed at this time."

The company could not say when operations would resume.

The flooded Verdigris River at Coffeyville, fouled by Sunday's oil spill (Photo credit unknown)
On Saturday, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius declared a state of emergency for 16 counties including Coffey County. President George W. Bush issued a presidential disaster declaration for the area on Monday.

As southeast Kansas continues to deal with the effects of major flooding, Governor Sebelius today signed an executive order lifting certain restrictions on motor vehicles carrying relief supplies to the area. She suspended fees for over-dimension/overweight permits, requirements for registration and purchasing of fuel permits, as well as requirements for licensing and operating authority.

"The extent of the flooding is tremendous and getting homes, buildings and basic infrastructure repaired and rebuilt is going to be a massive undertaking," said Sebelius. "We want to eliminate any barriers that could slow the delivery of relief to the Kansans affected by the flooding so that the process of recovery can start as soon as possible."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Region 7 sent two coordinators to Coffeyville early Sunday morning to work with the local Emergency Operations Center.

On Monday, more coordinators from EPA Regions 6 and 7 were dispatched to Coffeyville with an EPA Mobile Command Post to coordinate pollution assessments from the flooding.

Floodwaters still flow through the streets of Coffeyville, Kansas. (Photo credit unknown)
Flood watches remain in effect for areas of Oklahoma and Texas where major flooding now is occurring or is imminent. Fifteen rivers are forecast to reach major flood stage across Texas and Oklahoma, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

On Monday morning, parts of the town of Erie, Kansas were flooded with up to four feet of water, as levees in the vicinity of Erie and Chanute, Kansas breeched in three places. About 100 people were evacuated to two shelters, and major roads in Chanute now are open.

Most counties in Kansas are reporting that flood waters are beginning to recede and roads are starting to open. Local damage assessments are beginning as roads become accessible.

All 77 Oklahoma counties remain under a state of emergency and the Department of Emergency Management, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and the National Guard are at work to deal with the crisis.

The Oklahoma City metro area has had 20 consecutive days of rain.

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry visited the flooded areas today. Accompanied by state and local emergency management officials, he flew over Bartlesville, South Coffeyville and Coffeyville, Kansas to view the Coffeyville oil refinery spill now heading towards Oklahoma.

"To see this devastation in person is truly heartbreaking," the governor said. "Thousands of Oklahomans have lost property and hundreds of homes have been damaged. Submerged roads and bridges are making travel in some communities virtually impossible."

The governor took an aerial tour of the Miami area in northeast Oklahoma before landing and visiting with victims and first responders. Miami now is planning for evacuations as the Neosho River continues to rise.

"In some communities such as Miami - where floods are continuing and waters have yet to crest - the focus is on evacuating residents and protecting property," Governor Henry said. "In other areas, such as Shawnee and Bartlesville, damage assessments are being conducted and I anticipate asking President Bush for assistance before the end of the week."

Rail line underwater in Miami, Oklahoma. (Photo by K.W. Gardner)
The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management continues to receive damage reports from counties, cities and towns impacted by storms and flooding.

In Washington County, Oklahoma some 3,000 residents have been displaced by flooding since Friday, some taking shelter with the American Red Cross Bartlesville, and in the Dewey County Red Cross Shelter. The Salvation Army is providing feeding services for shelters and responders.

American Red Cross disaster relief workers from across the United States are joining their colleagues in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to help shelter displaced residents and provide emergency assistance, food, shelter, and cleaning supplies.

As the weather permits, teams of relief workers will conduct disaster assessments and determine how the Red Cross can best help meet the needs of the thousands of flood victims. Those needing to contact loved ones are urged to use the Red Cross Safe and Well website. https://disastersafe.redcross.org/

Damage assessments are taking place today in Comanche County, and assessors began Monday to investigate damage in areas of Pottawatomie County hit hard by flooding last week.

In Texas, more heavy rainfall is forecast for areas that already have been inundated with rain from central Texas south to the Rio Grande.

Some places could see from three to five inches of rain, and river flooding may increase this week, forecasters warn.

On Monday, torrential downpours pounded south Texas across portions of the Texas Coastal Plains and Coastal Bend areas and southwest near the lower Rio Grande Valley.

Shari Verneer and Jay Morehead of Big Lake, Missouri load flood damaged household items onto a trailer they are taking to the dump. (Photo by Marvin Nauman courtesy FEMA)

Numerous roads have been closed due to flooding in seven Missouri counties, where heavy rains have pounded the state since mid-June. Six homes in Bates County, Missouri were destroyed with two more homes flooded. Some evacuations and water rescues have taken place.

In Polk County, Missouri an estimated 10 miles of roads have been damaged. Up to 10 feet of water was reported to cover roads in Bates County. Up to five feet of water was reported over roads in Vernon County, Missouri.

The National Weather Service forecasts that the Osage River in Vernon and Bates Counties will crest on July 7, 2006, at a projected 54 feet, which is 24 feet above flood stage and three feet above record levels set in 1986.

Near record flooding on South Grand River near Urich and Big Creek near Blairstown are predicted.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is working with local, state and federal governments as it coordinates the federal response. FEMA has provided three trailers of drinking water to Kansas as requested by the state and has begun to conduct damage assessments.

"FEMA has been in constant contact with our partners at every level of government and with volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross as we work together to respond to these floods," said FEMA Administrator David Paulison. "While state and local first responders will always play a primary role during such disasters, FEMA and our federal partners are moving quickly to support their activities and deliver aid to those in need."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is performing levee assessments, has supplied two pumps and provided 26,000 sandbags in Kansas.

The Tulsa District of the Corps of Engineers manages the flood pools at eight lakes in Kansas, 23 in Oklahoma, and two in Texas. These lakes continue to rise as widespread rainfall continues across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and the Corps warns that as the lakes fill their flood control pools, rivers will rise still further when the Corps releases impounded water to protect dam structures.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.



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