FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2009
CONTACT: Pamala Vazquez, (813) 632-7600 Ext. 495
DEP FINALIZES SETTLEMENT WITH GULFSTREAM FOR SEAGRASS DAMAGE
--Gulfstream required to restore area and pay $205,000 in penalties, costs, and environmental resource damages---
PINELLAS COUNTY- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has reached an agreement with Gulfstream Natural Gas Systems (Gulfstream) to resolve violations related to two unintentional releases of drilling mud that occurred during the installation of a natural gas pipeline within the Pinellas County Aquatic Preserve, a Class II Outstanding Florida Waterbody. Nearly one acre of seagrass beds was impacted by the releases and more than one half acre of seagrass sustained further damage from the grounding and removal of two tank barges used to clean up the released drilling mud.
The legal order imposes $175,000 in penalties and costs to Gulfstream, plus DEP is requiring the company to pay an additional $30,000 for the environmental damages to Tampa Bay.
"Seagrass beds are essential not only to our precious marine life, but to the overall health of our economy," said DEP Southwest District Director Deborah Getzoff. "These penalties represent DEP's firm commitment to protecting Florida's natural resources. Fortunately, the seagrasses in this area have already begun to reestablish themselves."
Gulfstream has removed the drilling mud which is comprised of a naturally occurring clay known as Bentonite. The mud is pumped through the drill pipe to lubricate and cool the drilling bit as it moves forward. A release occurs when too much pressure causes a fracture in the overlying material.
The company now has 30 days to pay its penalties and costs, and to submit a restoration plan to DEP that includes a detailed description of how Gulfstream intends to restore both the holes left behind by the drilling mud release, and the area dredged by the grounding and removal of the barges.
Gulfstream has completed the 17.74 mile pipeline project which extends from the main pipeline in Manatee County to the Progress Energy power plant on Weedon Island. The pipeline will make it possible for the power plant to switch from burning fuel oil to using natural gas.
To learn more about the importance of Florida Seagrasses, visit the DEP website at: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/