Testing shows decreased contaminants in Mill Creek following Keystone spill

Due to last month’s oil spill, KDHE’s recent water testing reveals a decrease in contaminants...
Due to last month’s oil spill, KDHE’s recent water testing reveals a decrease in contaminants in the Washington Co. streams.(TC Energy)
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 1:00 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) on Wednesday announced results from the recent water testing on Mill Creek show a decrease in the concentration of contaminants. Additionally, a downward trend in contaminants on the Little Blue River was discovered.

Following an oil spill on Dec. 7, 2023, KDHE has since been sampling water from Mill Creek in Washington County.

On Dec. 9, a stream advisory was issued for Mill Creek downstream of the spill to the Little Blue River. Residents were advised not to come into contact with or allow pets and livestock to contact the creek water. That advisory remains in effect.

KDHE collects weekly water samples to measure the levels of petroleum contaminants. The staff also reviews and analyzes TC Energy’s contractors’ daily water and soil sampling. The water is analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds known to be present in this grade of crude oil, known as diluted bitumen.

Randy Carlson, Ph.D., Geologist and Director of Environmental Remediation at KDHE, said, “Bitumen is a heavy grade of crude oil that is safely diluted for transportation down the pipeline. Without dilution, it would not flow through a pipeline efficiently.”

Temporarily, TC Energy is diverting Mill Creek from a location upstream of the pipeline spill — downstream of the containment dams. This allows the clean-up and reclamation of the impacted zone of Mill Creek by limiting the quantity of unimpacted surface water that enters the containment area.

TC Energy said that specially constructed earthen dams have effectively contained spilled material. However, trace amounts of petroleum contaminants have been detected downstream. Diversifying surface water around the impacted area will reduce the chance of further downstream impacts.

No public water supply intakes are present on the Little Blue River. TC Energy is now providing water testing for residents with private water wells close to Mill Creek, the Little Blue River, or with private surface water intake for livestock or recreational ponds on either of those streams.