Gas pipeline in Arkansas River ruptures

ALLEN REED, Associated Press
A flooded area near the Arkansas River flows near the Clinton Presidential Library Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Little Rock, Ark. Heavy rain in the Arkansas River Valley earlier this week caused a surge in river levels that approached flood stage, closed three lock and dams to barge traffic and threatened to flood portions of the Clinton Presidential Center property. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Copyright , The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) A 2-mile section of the Arkansas River near Little Rock remained closed Wednesday following the rupture of a pipeline that released enough natural gas to fuel about 65 homes for a year.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally said the section of the river, which is near Arkansas' busiest airport, will remain closed until Spectra Energy Corp. crews can identify what caused the leak. He said no injuries had been reported and that the sheen the fuel had left on the river's surface had mostly dissipated by Monday, when the leak was reported.

Spectra Energy Corp. spokesman Creighton Welch said the cause of the leak isn't known, and he declined to estimate how much it cost the company. The leak occurred Sunday or Monday on a backup pipeline that crosses underneath the swollen river. The line was closed when it ruptured and the roughly 4 million cubic feet of natural gas that escaped had been what was left over inside, he said.

A towboat reported an explosion and sustained unspecified damage, Lally said.

The auxiliary line is part of the company's Texas Eastern Pipeline, which transports fuel from Texas to New Jersey. The company provides gas to CenterPoint Energy in the Little Rock area.

Welch said that the gas leak shouldn't have a lasting impact on the river, as the fuel escapes from the water relatively quickly.

"What happens is it will bubble up to the surface and dissipate into the air," Welch said. "There should not be any residual materials in the water."

The average U.S. family uses 168 cubic feet of natural gas per day, Welch said, meaning the escaped fuel could power about 65 homes for a year. He said Arkansas uses about 775 million cubic feet per day.

Dive crews using sonar equipment have been working the area since Monday, Welch said. Complicating their task is record rainfall across the southern Plains, which has caused waterways, including the Arkansas River, to swell.

The National Weather Service reported that the river in Little Rock has been near flood stage since before Sunday and could enter minor flood stage briefly on Wednesday or Thursday. The river is projected to crest at 23 feet, which is the exact cutoff for minor flood stage.

"Given the high levels of the river right now some of that has been slowed right now," Welch said. "Obviously, we want to make sure they're safe as well."

Shane Carter, a spokesman for the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, said the leak didn't cause damage to the airport or interrupt any flights.

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