Crews will reroute Mill Creek after massive Keystone pipeline spill in Kansas

The pipeline resumed operations on Dec. 29

By: - January 3, 2023 11:08 am
keystone oil spill

Efforts are underway to clean up the largest spill in the Keystone pipeline’s history, which happened near Washington, Kansas. The pipeline’s owner announced Mill Creek will be temporarily rerouted to help with cleanup. (TC Energy)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Crews will reroute Mill Creek to avoid the site of the Keystone Pipeline’s largest-ever oil spill, the oil pipeline’s parent company announced Tuesday.

The Keystone pipeline, which runs from Canada to Texas and Illinois, spilled 14,000 barrels of oil near the Kansas-Nebraska border in early December. The spill — the latest in a number of spills and deficiencies along the pipeline — turned Mill Creek black and deposited oil on farmland near Washington, Kansas.

Within two weeks after the spill, more than 400 people were onsite cleaning up the oil, including personnel from the pipeline’s owner, TC Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and state and local officials. Crews built dams to contain the spill and began vacuuming oil from the creek and surrounding areas.

keystone pipeline oil spill
The map shows the planned diversion of Mill Creek as crews work to clean up the site of the Keystone oil pipeline spill. (TC Energy)

Now, those responders are working to “temporarily divert (Mill) Creek from a location upstream of the pipeline spill to downstream of the containment dams,” TC Energy said in a statement.

“The diversion will assist in the cleanup and reclamation of the creek,” the statement said.

TC Energy did not say in its news release how diverting the creek would assist in cleanup.

As of Tuesday, TC Energy said it had recovered almost 12,000 barrels of oil.

TC Energy said it would give $7,500 to purchase new mobile and radio equipment for the Washington County Emergency Management Office. It also pledged to match donations to the Washington County Hospital.

The site of the spill on Tuesday was still subject to a no-fly zone for drones requested by TC Energy.

Following the spill, the federal government ordered TC Energy to investigate the cause of the pipeline’s spill. It also required the company to submit a plan before resuming operations. The Cushing Extension — the part of the pipeline where the spill occurred — started operating again on Dec. 29.

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.