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By Brian Hews
Residents in the normally quiet Villages at Heritage Springs in Santa Fe Springs, located on Telegraph between Norwalk and Bloomfield Boulevards, were shocked when word spread on July 23rd that another oil leak had sprayed a $650,000 home in oil and water, covering plants, trees, and cars, within the walls of this affluent community that includes 384 single family homes.
Homeowner Derek Nguyen who lives on the 10500 block of Magnolia Place claims that this is the second time that his home had been sprayed by an oil leak as a result of faulty extraction equipment.
BreitBurn Energy Partners, a Los Angeles-based independent oil and gas partnership, controls and operates 20 well sites within the walls of The Villages and there is a fear from Villages residents that another leak could occur after this latest episode.
In 2010, a crude oil spill occurred at the BreitBurn Oil Lease south of Orcutt in the Santa Barbara County.
The total spill was estimated at 15 barrels (630 gallons) and was contained by a vacuum truck.
Within a week, an additional 100 barrels of crude oil spilled from a storage tank at the same facility.
In 2013 Breitburn faced a $67,700 fine for “likely” spilling fracking fluid in the South Belridge Oil Field in Kern County.
BreitBurn was accused of discharging between 420 and 840 gallons of the fluid into a series of six unlined sumps during a 17-day period between May and July of 2013.
The latest incident occurred around 10:15am on the 23rd. According to Homeowner’s Association President Ron Beilke, he received a call from a resident while attending a Santa Fe Springs Chamber of Commerce event in the area along with the SFS City Manager and Mayor. “Fortunately, with the City Manager nearby I was able to inform him of the leak and he immediately made the appropriate calls to ensure a speedy response.”
According to Breitburn representatives, the leak was a result of, “a pipeline blocked by sand that allowed extreme pressure to build which caused a gasket to burst. Normal pressure would never exceed 10-12 pounds even in the most extreme case.”
The oil on the property is extracted using machinery and water, which is not to be confused with the controversial practice known as “fracking.”
Clean-up duties were coordinated by SFS Environmental Protection Specialist Brenda ten Bruggencate. Breitburn enlisted the containment and clean-up services of Ocean Blue Environmental who specialize in removing hazardous materials according to EPA standards.
Residents told HMG-CN that all vegetation was dug up and bagged and placed in a dumpster lined with plastic sheeting. Although residents claim Breitburn stood up and took full responsibility for all damages, they did not feel satisfied.
So they demanded a meeting with Brietburn and SFS officials, and got it.
Breitburn Area Superintendent Jeff Winkler addressed the community on July 28th with SFS Fire Division Chief and Hazmat Team Member Mike Yule in attendance. According to a summary of the meeting, Winkler faced a series of hard questions and didn’t hesitate to apologize and offer solutions.
“I think Jeff came to the meeting with every intention of being forthright and accommodating to all safety suggestions, and that’s certainly what he did,” said Beilke.
Breitburn agreed to construct concrete barricades over and around the five active wells in use in order to prevent the spraying of homes, they will also grade their sites to form pools to prevent leaks from leaving their properties.
“We knew these wells were here when bought our homes,” commented longtime resident Jose Lainez, “all we ask is for Breitburn to make every effort to ensure our community’s safety.”
Beilke felt that Breitburn could regain the community’s trust as long as they follow thru with the agreed upon safety precautions. “I don’t think anyone here would disagree that Breitburn has been good neighbor. Hopefully this was a learning experience and we can forget about it over time” added Beilke.
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