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Oil spray coats L.A. business district

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By The Associated Press
Thursday, May 15, 2014, 9:36 p.m.
 

LOS ANGELES — A geyser of oil sprayed onto buildings and puddled in knee-high pools of crude in Los Angeles streets when a valve on a high-pressure pipeline failed early Thursday.

About 10,000 gallons of oil spewed 20 feet high over half a mile of the industrial area of Atwater Village about 12:15 a.m., said fire Capt. Jaime Moore.

Four commercial businesses near the border of Glendale were affected, as well as a strip club that was evacuated because oil came through air vents. The parking lot was closed, and patrons and workers had to leave behind their crude-coated cars.

Crews were able to shut off the 20-inch line remotely after about 45 minutes.

“Inspectors went right to the failed valve. They knew right away where the problem originated,” Moore said. Determining exactly what caused the failure would take some time, he said.

Four people at a medical business a half-block away were evaluated with respiratory complaints, and two people were transferred to a hospital in stable condition, Moore said.

Quick-thinking workers used sand from a nearby concrete company to build a makeshift dike.

“They created a pool and were able to hem in much of the oil,” Moore said.

By dawn, an environmental cleaning company had vacuumed up most of the mess. Crews put down absorbent material to sop up the remaining crude and used high-pressure hoses to wash the streets with a soap solution.

Firefighters and hazardous materials crews responded, along with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. Several roads were shut down and were expected to remain closed for much of the day.

Officials initially said 50,000 gallons spilled, but that number was revised downward once the vacuuming began.

Fire department spokesman Erik Scott said there was no “visible evidence” that the oil entered storm drains, which empty into the Los Angeles River. But he said it's possible that oil seeped under manhole covers.

The valve failed at a transfer pumping station along a pipeline that runs from Bakersfield to Texas, Moore said.

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