Saturday, January 26, 2008

A 6th Street Oil Spill Mystery

In the January 25, 2008 Daily Texan article “Oil spill may compromise ecosystem,” Ana McKenzie describes the spill that occurred on 6th street between the Driskill Hotel and the Littlefield Building. Although there were no immediate effects on the ecosystem, the possibility of long term effects is still a concern. An estimated 4,200 gallons of fuel have been removed from Waller Creek. More oil may still remain in the creek. McKenzie claims that city biologists are on the problem by working on a weekly ecological review of the affected area. The one hundred-year-old tank held 9,000 gallons oil and was a former railroad car. What should be done about the tank is no yet clear.

It’s easy to say that it should just be removed, but the situation is not that simple. The tank is surrounded by wires, its downtown location would cause significant traffic delays, and the labor to remove it would not be cheap. McKenzie does not make it clear if all of the oil has been removed from the tank, but she does say that it contains enough water now to prevent it from floating up, causing structural damage. So, what should be done? First, I think that if there is any oil remaining, it should be pumped out. Second, because of all of the complications of removing the tank, I think that it should be filled with water to prevent any further structural damage. Finally, the tank should be monitored to ensure that it is not floating or a threat to the surrounding wires. However, if the cost of monitoring is significant, a cost evaluation to remove the tank should be done and removal should be seriously considered.

One must beg to also ask, why was the tank only buried one foot below a downtown street level, and why would the oil be seemingly abandoned when it could have been sold for a profit? And of course, who owns/owned the mysterious tank?

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