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Cleanup continues on 21,000-gallon gasoline spill in Minn.; officials say major explosion avoided

EAGAN, Minn.—As crews continued to clean up the 21,000-gallon gasoline spill in Eagan on Tuesday, state and local officials said the air and water quality were safe for area residents.

The number of workers at the scene of Monday's spill swelled to around 100 Tuesday and included officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, state Office of Pipeline Safety, and Magellan Midstream Partners, a Tulsa, Okla., company that owns and operates the busted pipeline.

The Office of Pipeline Safety is leading the investigation into the cause of the spill, which Eagan police said happened shortly after noon when a crew with contractor STS Enterprises hit an underground pipeline while digging soil borings near the Life Time Fitness parking lot. The site is east of Interstate 35E and north of Cliff Road.

Life Time Fitness and an adjacent business, Intertech, were evacuated after the spill and remained closed Tuesday morning.

Several nearby roads remained closed; a Life Time spokeswoman said the health club could reopen Tuesday night. City officials were unsure when the roads would reopen.

Eagan Fire Chief Mike Scott said gasoline flowed into the storm water system and then into two collection ponds. It has been vacuumed up by cleanup crews hired by Magellan, he said.

"The good thing is because of the quick response by all the resources that Magellan called out, it did not make it to any of the lakes," Scott said.

Jason Moran, an emergency management official with the state PCA, said the city's water supply is safe and that continuous readings of the air at the site and in surrounding neighborhoods showed the gasoline fumes did not reach a level where they would have harmed residents.

"They might be able to smell it, but it's going to be at the nuisance levels that don't pose any risk," he said.

Tom Byers, manager of government and media affairs for Magellan, said gasoline that spilled into the Life Time Fitness parking lot is being cleaned up by using sand, while contaminated soil near the drilling site was being excavated and will be taken to an approved site for disposal.

Byers said he was not able to say when the cleanup would be complete.

"We're going to be out here conducting the cleanup until it has been done to the satisfaction of the city of Eagan, the EPA, the state and all of the other agencies that have responsibilities," he said.

The 12-inch-diameter pipeline transports refined petroleum products from Rosemount to Minneapolis. Byers said he was unsure when the pipeline would be repaired.

STS Enterprises, which is based in Norwood Young America, Minn., was working in the area on a project to expand the Life Time Fitness parking lot, Scott said. A call to STS Enterprises for comment was not returned Tuesday.

Jen Longaecker, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Pipeline Safety, which falls under the state's Department of Public Safety, said she could not discuss specifics of the investigation because it is active and open.

"I can tell you that our inspectors at scenes like this will be looking for compliance with Minnesota's one-call laws as well as the gas company's procedures, emergency response and operations," she said in an email.

Scott said that when firefighters arrived on the scene, gasoline was pooling and flowing in the parking lot and cars were driving through it.

"With all the businesses in the area and all the people, and with the volume of gasoline, it would've taken just one spark — one ignition source — and we would've had a major explosion," he said.

Scott said one of the first concerns was to check the air to see if gasoline fumes had reached levels where an ignition source could have caused an explosion. They had not, he said.

The incident could have been much worse, Moran said.

"Nobody got hurt and there were no fires or explosions ... and the pollution could have been larger than it was," he said. "So, all in all, things turned out as well as they probably could have."

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