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OIL REMOVAL ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE TO LAKE APPEARS MINIMAL.

Byline: Amy Raisin Staff Writer

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST - Workers suctioned crude oil out of Pyramid Lake on Thursday as experts tried to gauge environmental damage done by a 126,000-gallon spill from a ruptured pipeline.

Representatives from federal, state and local agencies were assessing damage to the reservoir, to the oil-stained hillside - the sliding earth that ruptured the pipeline had moved an additional five feet since Wednesday's break, one official said - and to any wildlife in the area.

``I spoke to one of the biologists and, so far, they haven't found any evidence that any wildlife has been injured or harmed by the oil spill,'' said Dana Michaels, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish and Game.

Cleanup could take weeks, officials said.

It is unclear exactly how much oil spilled into the man-made lake, which holds Northern California water brought south by the California Aqueduct and which supplies drinking water for Southern California cities.

Using a hose attached to a pump, crews had removed approximately 80 barrels, or 3,360 gallons, from the lake's surface by Thursday afternoon, according to Jeanne Garcia, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control.

However, the liquid removed by workers was a mixture of oil and lake water, she said. The barrels were loaded onto a truck and the contents will later be separated to salvage the oil.

The 1,297-acre lake contains bass, trout and other fish, but was not scheduled to open to anglers and boaters until May 1.

Water officials said they were not concerned about potential contamination of the region's drinking water. The water flow downstream to Castaic Lake was shut off by state water officials Wednesday after the spill was discovered.

Booms and oil skimmers were being used to contain the spill, which was mostly concentrated in one narrow arm of the lake, and three cofferdams were built to prevent any more oil from pouring into the lake, officials said.

The spill occurred Wednesday when a landslide ruptured a 14-inch, high- pressure pipeline, said Arthur G. Diefenbach, a senior vice president of Pacific Energy Partners, whose subsidiary, Pacific Pipeline Systems, owns the pipeline.

Plans were being developed to construct a bypass around the damaged pipe. There was no estimate of when repairs would be completed.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Robert Brady said the hillsides above the lake are densely saturated from the second-wettest rainy season on record in Los Angeles. The lake and the broken pipeline are in Angeles National Forest.

``These mountains, generally, are made of decomposed granite,'' Brady said Thursday. ``You just look at some of that stuff and it falls apart. Our geologist told me that the (damaged portion of) pipeline moved another five feet since yesterday.''

The pipeline transports crude oil from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles-area refineries. The rupture was not expected to immediately affect supply because of previous storage, Diefenbach said.

Caltrans closed one lane of Interstate 5 in each direction and the on- and off-ramps near the lake to provide a staging area for cleanup crews. The closures were expected to last a week to 10 days, Caltrans officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) On Thursday, crews from Pacific Pipeline clean up oil spilled Wednesday after a landslide ruptured a pipeline near Interstate 5.

(2 -- color) All operations at Pyramid Lake have been suspended so workers can clean up Wednesday's 126,000-gallon spill from a ruptured pipeline.

David Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 25, 2005
Words:585
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