The Coffeyville Resources Refinery in Kansas was the site of the most destructive oil spill in recent memory. On June 28, 2007 during an already catastrophic flood, at least 71,000 gallons of oil was allowed to escape from the refinery into the town of Coffeyville. Refinery officials said that the oil spill occurred when the company was attempting to shut down the plant and evacuate before the flood reached the refinery. A pump apparently malfunctioned and allowed oil to continue flowing to the refineryâ€™s main storage tank until it overflowed. The problem went unnoticed for some time, and allowed a huge amount of oil to escape.
Coffeyville, with a population of 11,000, was hardest hit by the oil spill. After the oil spill, witnesses reported that a thick oily muck covered just about everything in the town, and described a foul, acrid stench that lingered in the air for days. Even after the flood waters receded, residents were unable to survey the damage to their homes, as it was far too risky to allow anyone contact with the contaminated town. Just days after the spill, local health officials were reporting cases of skin rashes, diarrhea and numerous respiratory ailments among rescue workers and other first responders to the spill. Now residents of Coffeyville are faced with a daunting cleanup, hug economic losses, and possible serious health problems resulting from the oil spill. Only time and careful monitoring will uncover the true consequences of this tragic oil spill.
But Coffeyville was not alone in its misery. The oil slick traveled down the Verdigris River and into Oklahoma, coming precariously close to Oologah Lake. Both the river and lake are popular boating and fishing spots, and between them, they provide water for nine municipalities in Kansas and Oklahoma. Though public heath officials in both states believe that much of the oil from the spill dissipated before it could contaminate these water supplies, it could be months or years before anyone knows if these other communities where spared the most horrible affects of the oil spill.