Hopkins County is seeking legal for costs of repairing county roads damaged by the 2019 pipeline fuel spill cleanup in Turkey Creek.
Hopkins County Commissioners Court Monday morning considered a retainer agreement with Allison, Bass & Magee LLP to assist with legal action in attempts to get Delek Logistics to pay for damages reportedly caused by heavy trucks using county roads in Precincts 1 and 4 while responding to the Oct. 3, 2019 fuel spill in Turkey Creek.
Background on the 2019 Pipeline Fuel Spill
Local officials on Oct. 4 reported, Hopkins County Fire Department responded at 6:44 p.m. Oct. 3, 2019, “in the area of County Road 1130 in Miller Grove for a six inch rupture in a pipeline that occurred after diesel was pushed through the pipeline after a two month maintenance program. While the diesel was being pushed the pipeline burst causing the diesel to run into the nearby waterway. The pipeline was shut down and mitigation was started to contain the diesel. The creek bed was dry and contained before getting into any other water way.”
A remediation company was contracted to place a boom to prevent the spill from traveling downstream. Local community volunteers under the direction of the Hopkins County Office of Emergency Management built a temporary earthen barrier in the event the boom was insufficient, emergency management officials reported Oct. 4, 2019.
The State of Texas State Operations Center on Oct. 4 reported 10,000 to 15,000 barrels of product were to have been released during the incident.
Much of the creek bed along the 1.25-mile stretch of Turkey Creek was dry, with only a few pockets of water, which helped stop the spread before it got into the drinking water. Some fish in those small pockets of water were found dead after the first day or response, officials reported.
On Monday, Oct. 7, 24,186 barrels of substance had been removed from the area. However, Hopkins County emergency management officials reported not all contained product, some were mostly water. An estimated 10,048 barrels were diesel.
According to EPA officials at the command center on Oct. 11, the quick response to contain the spill and remove the product so quickly, was expected to result in no long term damage to the creek and surrounding environment. An area of soil around the pipeline leak would have to be replaced, but the creek itself wasn’t expected to have to be remediated, according to the EPA official.
“Hopkins County employees and their equipment did a lot of work the night of that spill to keep that flow of diesel from going into Lake Fork. We provided anything they asked for and we did have a gentlemen’s agreement that they would take care of our roads, which now they are not following through,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker said during the commissioners court.
“His crew did really save the day for us out there. It was hours out before they ever got any equipment in there. His crews already had it stopped, diked and dammed. They did an outstanding job,” Hopkins County Fire Marshal Andy Endsley said.
Once crews contracted by the company arrived, they began to clean up the fuel that was spilled, requiring heavy trucks to travel on county roads.
Endsley emphasized the subcontractors who performed the cleanup did a “good job on it” and “were on top of their game.” He said he has no complaint with their efforts.
“It’s still an ongoing spill. They have not closed it out. And, they need the local authority and county judge to sign of that it is completed. We’re still months, maybe even a year or more, before we have a clean bill on that creek being complete. They’re out there at least once a month,” Endsley said.
Reimbursement has been paid for materials and manpower of fire department, emergency management and county employees during the biggest part of the clean up effort, Endsley noted.
However, Delek Logistics has not honored the agreement to restore county roads damaged in the cleanup effort, county officials contend. In addition to the gentlemen’s agreement, federal environmental regulations regarding hazardous material incidents stipulate that the company is responsible for paying 100 percent back to take care of damages, including county roads, county officials contended.
“I’ve already spent quite a bit of money repairing my roads. I know Joe has also,” Barkers said of Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price. “We’ve had over 500 overloaded trucks going up and down our county roads, that have at some places destroyed the road and at other places destroyed the base underneath the road. We just feel like it’s time to move forward with this. It’s been over a year now.”
According to Price, about 4 miles of county road in his precinct have been damaged as well. Heavy overloaded trucks “compromised the top of that road and it’s not going to get any better,” Price said. “I’ve spent $10,000 just on a short strip where the trucks and stopped to enter [FM] 275. That doesn’t even scratch the surface on what I need to do.”
“I’ve spent about $30,000 in material and on some culverts that were crushed, and that’s just patching, that’s not completely repairing the roads,” Barker said. “Citizens out there are getting very upset and I don’t blame them one bit, but we are very limited in what we can do.”
Price made the motion, which was seconded by Barker, to approve a retainer agreement with Allison, Bass & Magee LLP. The motion received unanimous approval from the Commissioners Court during the 9 a.m. regular court session Monday, Dec. 21, 2020.
Barker and Endsley said they and Price have gone beyond the call of due diligence, trying to resolve the matter with the company without legal action.
Endsley recommended the commissioners court put Allison, Bass & Magee, LLP, “the finest law firm in the state of Texas,” on retainer to help move the process forward.
“I believe that they will help us move forward and get the county roads back where they need to be. We’ve really done our due diligence with Delek trying to be no so aggressive with them, but I think we’re at that point where we have got to move forward and get some more legal advice,” Endsley.
“We’ve all tried to handle this is situation. Delek has chosen to turn this over to their insurance lawyers. We just feel that it’s time that we get someone else involved that can understand a little more of the legal lingo and push to get our roads repaired,” Barker said.