Pipeline leaking oil in St. Charles County

Excavation equipment is used to search for an oil leak close to where TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline runs through northern St. Charles County near St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — A part of TransCanada’s Keystone oil pipeline was shut down Wednesday after a leak in the St. Louis area.

It was unclear, however, if the leak was from the Nebraska-to-Illinois Keystone pipeline itself.

“The release is stopped,” a Missouri Department of Natural Resources official said Wednesday night, adding that the crude oil spill occurred north of St. Charles, Missouri.

"The source of the release has not been fully determined, but it is apparent that it originated at either the TransCanada Keystone pipeline or the Enbridge pipeline; there is no visible release near the other pipelines," Department of Natural Resources spokesman Brian Quinn said Thursday in an email to The Associated Press.

Officials told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the leak is about 1,700 feet south of the Mississippi River and does not threaten the waterway. There are two crude oil pipelines in the area of the leak — the 30-inch diameter Keystone line, and another 20 inches wide from Enbridge, called the Platte Pipeline. Both are buried about 8 feet below ground.

Beyond trying to identify which pipeline might have the leak, officials said they also had yet to determine when and why a rupture occurred. Vacuum trucks were working at the scene.

Brad Harris, chief of the DNR's environmental emergency response section, said the spill was estimated to be at least 43 barrels, or about 1,800 gallons.

"It's contained in this low area," Harris said. "I think we've gotten lucky. Four thousand square feet is the estimated impacted area."

Once a responsible company was identified, officials said a proper cleanup would ensue to remove contaminated soil and water.

A TransCanada spokesman said the leak was discovered by a company technician doing a routine check at the site, and that the pipeline from Steele City, Nebraska, to Patoka, Illinois, was shut down immediately.

Enbridge's Platte Pipeline was also shut down from Salisbury, Missouri, to Wood River, Illinois.

In Nebraska, Robynn Tysver, a spokeswoman with TransCanada, told the Journal Star that TransCanada is collaborating with Enbridge and there wasn't yet an estimated timeline for the Keystone pipeline to return to service.

"We are working closely with local, state and federal agencies, including the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Safety remains our top priority," she said.

The incident was reported to St. Charles County's Central County Fire and Rescue at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. When the department responded to the scene, individuals from the two pipeline companies were already there, using heavy equipment to try to find the leak, a department spokeswoman said.

Reuters, Bryce Gray from the Post-Dispatch and Lori Pilger from the Lincoln Journal Star contributed to this report.