COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Nearly a month to the day oil started spilling onto a nature preserve in Colerain Township, we're getting our first up-close look at cleanup and repair efforts.
It happened on March 17 at the Oak Glen Nature Preserve when more than 20,000 gallons of oil leaked from that pipeline, largely owned by Sunoco Logistics.
Normally, the 374-acre area is a quiet place dedicated to preserving the natural environment. But as of late, it's become more of a work site in some spots. The emergency cleanup phase is over and it's now on to remediation and restoration of the area. But, officials say that could take quite some time.
"It's just been tough. Leave it at that," said Bob Mason with Great Parks of Hamilton County.
This last month has been an emotional one for Mason.
"Four weeks ago, this water was solid black with crude oil floating on top," said Mason.
FOX19 cameras had the chance to see the pipe at the exact site where the break occurred, causing that oil to spew into the nature preserve a few weeks ago. But, fast forward to today, and it's a far different scene.
"We're just trying to do our best to get as much oil out without doing too much damage to the park," Mason said.
Ninety percent of the oil that spilled from the pipe is cleaned up. But, it's the final 10 percent that's going to take the longest.
"In the emergency response they get about 90 percent of the oil. Now comes the hard part - getting that final polish," said Mason.
But, the remnants of the spill can still be seen under rocks and around trees, as they're stained with oil. On top of that, pads are still soaking up what's left of the oil.
"They've been drawing water out of the pond, pumping it up to the top of the hill, and then letting it flow back into the stream and just using it to flush the stream," Mason told FOX19.
Though most of the oil has been recovered, the whole process is far from over.
"I would say many months. Maybe a couple years. Maybe longer," said Mason.
Over that course of time, the hope is to leave the area better than the way it was found.
Once we get remediation pretty well wrapped up, we'll go into restoration, which is where we start putting things back as best we can, to the way it was, and in some cases, might even make things better," Mason told FOX19.
As for the affected animals at the site, Mason tells FOX19, 149 animals were recovered, and nearly half of them have been released. However, sixteen of them have died.
Jeff Shields, communications Manager for Sunoco Logistics sent this statement to FOX19 on Tuesday:
"We expect clean-up operations to be completed in the near future, with approval by regulatory agencies, then we will be on site periodically as we move into the restoration phase. We do not have a timetable for restoration. Sunoco Logistics will remain at work in Colerain Township until the job is done and the work approved by all stakeholders."