Chevron responsible for oil leak in Salt Lake City creek

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A leaked pipeline caused oil to spill into a Salt Lake City creek Saturday, coating geese and ducks and closing a park, officials said.

An estimated 400 to 500 barrels of oil spewed into Red Butte Creek before crews capped the leak site. Nearly 50 gallons of crude oil per minute initially had spilled into the creek, according to Scott Freitag, a Salt Lake City Fire Department spokesman.

"Our real concern is keeping people safe, and keeping the oil from reaching the Great Salt Lake," Frietag told the Deseret News.

Officials were unsure of the cause of the leak, near the University of Utah campus, or the extent of the spill's environmental impact. Mayor Ralph Becker said drinking water for residents was not affected.

"Our fire teams have capped the site and will work to determine the damage and the best course of action," the mayor said in a statement.

Crews were using absorbent booms and creating dams to contain the spill, but officials said some oil had reached as far as the Jordan River, and oil flowed into a pond in the city's Liberty Park, near where residents reported dead fish in their ponds.

A crew was trying to collect and take birds to Hogle Zoo cleaning stations and other facilities, said Brad Park, zoo spokesman.

About 150 birds have been identified for rehabilitation, said Jane Larson, Hogle's animal care supervisor. About 75 percent are Canada geese. Several ducks also were affected.

The pipeline flows to Salt Lake City from Colorado and feeds the city's oil and gas refineries.

Employees at the Veteran Affairs Hospital first noticed oil in the stream just before 7 a.m. Officials then traced the spill to the pipe near Red Butte Garden. Freitag said the pipeline was shut off about 7:45 a.m.

"Chevron is taking full responsibility for this pipeline leak," Chevron spokesman Mark Sullivan told the Salt Lake Tribune.

"We're taking full responsibility for any financial damage, environmental damage, safety concerns, impacts on health and cleanup."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)