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Coast Guard Raises Estimate of Oil Spill to as Much as 545,000 Gallons

January 3, 1990

LINDEN, N.J. (AP) _ More than 500,000 gallons of heating oil, not 5,000, may have leaked into the busy Arthur Kill shipping channel from a break in an Exxon pipeline, the Coast Guard said Wednesday.

Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Crawley said Exxon issued the new estimate after taking an inventory of its supplies. He said 420,000 to 546,000 gallons could have leaked.

The Coast Guard previously estimated 5,000 gallons of the lightweight No. 2 oil had spilled into the channel, which separates Staten Island, N.Y., from New Jersey. The spill, discovered Tuesday morning, resulted from a break in a 12-inch pipe at Exxon’s Bayway Terminal, part of the oil giant’s largest East Coast refinery.

Crews continue work Wednesday to contain the floating oil, setting up booms to trap the oil, laying out absorbent material, skimming it off the surface or absorbing it with vacuums.

Exxon spokesman Louis Jung said divers had determined there was a 4-foot by half-inch gash in the underwater pipe, which connects the Exxon plant in Bayonne to its Bayway Refinery and Chemical Plant in Linden.

″Divers confirmed the line was struck or hit by something, it did not fail,″ he said.

A four-member emergency Coast Guard strike force was on its way from its base in Mobile, Ala., Crawley said.

Jung said the discrepancy in the size of the spill may have been due to confusion over whether the initial figures referred to barrels or gallons of oil. There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil.

Jung said the 6.7-mile-long pipe carries oil to several holding tanks, each of which had to be checked to test its level before the size of the spill could be determined.

The spill produced a slick estimated at 11 miles long, in a heavily industrial area already badly polluted, said Jeanine Mosley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Oil also has washed ashore along a six-mile area on the the west coast of Staten Island, she said.

Ms. Mosley said state regulators were awaiting further information before assessing the full damage caused by the spill.

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