Local oil spill plans in place

By Jeff Ferrell – bio|email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Watching the events unfold along the Gulf Coast makes many worry how ready we are in northwest Louisiana for an oil spill.  And it's never been a more relevant question with so much oil and gas activity these days because of the Haynesville Shale activity.

"One of the first things that crossed my mind would be something from maybe one of the train rails that runs close to Cross Lake or something that may go over the Cross Lake Bridge, the I-220 Bridge," said Scott Wolverton, the Shreveport Fire Department's chief safety officer.

Wolverton explained that there are detailed contingency plans in place for spills, ranging from inter-agency cooperation to the contracting of private hazardous materials clean-up firms.   He even recalled an emergency drill of a mock spill a few years back, at The Port of Shreveport-Bossier.

"Our main concern is protecting the drinking water supply," explained Wes Wyche.  He is Shreveport's Environmental Affairs Manager, who also said plans are in place to protect our drinking water in Cross Lake.

Wyche elaborated, "We have the ability to pump around it.  We basically can turn off the lake, stop pumping from Cross Lake, and pump directly to the plant from our secondary source," added Wyche.

In fact, the issue of how to handle a spill is of such importance that the Shreveport Water Department conducted a mock spill exercise a little more than one year ago and were able to transfer all the water coming in from one source to another, in this case 12 Mile Bayou.  And they did it within just five minutes.

"What we do here is, we rent pumps to move water, " said Clint Bartlett, as he walked us through the grounds of his company, Red River Pump Specialists, headquartered in north Shreveport.  They rent-out those pumps, during environmental cleanup operations for example, to the private hazardous materials firms which conduct the actual mop-up and removal.

Bartlett added though that the scale of the clean-up operation in the gulf will be on a much larger scale but that either way, "…they're going to have to move it in some way or another.  They may skim it off the top."

Luckily, neither Bartlett nor those at the water treatment plant have dealt with any kind of huge spill locally and they hope to keep it that way.

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