What was a quiet April evening in 2019, near Cottonwood, Minn., quickly turned into an environmental emergency that threatened the Yellow Medicine River. Thanks to the quick and efficient response, led by the Cottonwood Fire Department, what could have been a widespread fuel oil spill was contained and cleaned up with minimal harm.
A section of a fuel oil pipeline, owned by Magellan Midstream Partners, crosses Lyon County Ditch 24 above ground near Cottonwood. That section fell victim to target practice by some joyriders and sprung a leak, which was detected by Magellan’s operations center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ditch 24 flows directly to the Yellow Medicine River, which eventually flows to the Minnesota River downstream of Granite Falls. Once the Cottonwood FD located the spill, it immediately deployed sorbent booms in the ditch and called for assistance from the fire departments in Marshall and Hanley Falls.
The Cottonwood FD identified very early in the incident an opportunity to stop the release by placing a repair sleeve, typically used in the water system industry to repair damaged force mains. The fire departments worked through the night and the next day deploying and maintaining boom sets at six different locations extending almost ten stream miles in the ditch and river system.
Magellan also sent staff and equipment from their terminals in Marshall and Sioux Falls, SD, along with other pipeline staff and resources. Magellan maintains a number of emergency response contractors and resources that were also immediately dispatched and deployed in response to the spill. This additional assistance began to arrive within two hours of the nearly 8,000-gallon release and worked with the fire departments to complete the deployment of the additional boom and recovery equipment.
“These three fire departments showed a commitment to public safety and public service that is most commendable,” said MPCA Emergency Responder Craig Schafer. “They are a great example of cooperation and mutual aid in the face of difficult and complex response demands and are greatly deserving of recognition for their efforts and actions.”
For going above and beyond with immediate action to lead this partnership, the MPCA thanks the Cottonwood Fire Department for preventing widespread environmental harm.