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Pipeline company seeks to release treated water at massive Huntersville gasoline leak site

Colonial Pipeline workers were cleaning up the gas leak last September off Huntersville-Concord Road in Huntersville.
David Boraks
Contractors for Colonial Pipeline worked in 2020 at the site of a massive gas leak off Huntersville-Concord Road in Huntersville.

As Colonial Pipeline continues to clean up a massive 2020 gasoline spill north of Charlotte, the company is asking state regulators for permission to release treated wastewater into a local creek.

It's been 2 ½ years since a 40-inch underground pipeline burst at a nature preserve two miles east of downtown Huntersville, releasing an estimated 2 million gallons of gasoline. State regulators say it's still the largest gasoline spill on land in the U.S.

A judge last summer ordered Colonial Pipeline to pay a $5 million penalty and take corrective actions. That includes pumping and treating contaminated groundwater from recovery wells drilled at the site. Colonial needs a permit to release that groundwater into the nearby North Prong Clark Creek after it's treated.

Colonial has been storing wastewater in tanks and trucking it to a treatment facility.

In a statement late Tuesday, Colonial said:

"This permit will allow Colonial Pipeline to enhance our ongoing recovery and remediation efforts with a system that will safely return treated water to the local watershed while reducing truck traffic at the site. We remain committed to working closely with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as well as county and town leaders, to ensure our work at the site meets or exceeds all permitting requirements."

The state Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public hearing on the request March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Central Piedmont Community College campus in Huntersville.

To see the draft permit and other details, visit the NCDEQ website.

Updated: February 15, 2023 at 9:00 AM EST
This story has been updated to add a statement from Colonial Pipeline.
David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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