SALT LAKE CITY -- A second oil leak in six months in Salt Lake City has Chevron Corp. on the defensive and the mayor calling for a troubled pipeline to be shut down indefinitely.
Fire officials said about 100 barrels of crude oil leaked late Wednesday from a pipeline valve about 500 feet from the scene of a larger oil spill in June that fouled Red Butte Creek. The latest spill stopped short of the creek and was being contained with booms and earthen dams.
It wasn't immediately clear why the pipeline valve failed. Oil spilled out of a concrete vault onto a service road at the University of Utah, said Chevron spokesman Dan Johnson.
Chevron said it will take full responsibility for the spill that prompted another round of condemnation.
"At this point we cannot trust Chevron," Mayor Ralph Becker said Thursday at a news conference.
The city released a letter Becker wrote asking pipeline regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation to keep the pipeline shut down indefinitely.
"This outrageous spill demonstrates Chevron's incompetence," added Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, who also called for a lasting halt to pipeline operations for an investigation. "Chevron is being a bad corporate steward of Utah's environment."
A city resident, Annie Payne, said she was frustrated because Red Butte Creek is still recovering from the June spill that dumped about 500 barrels of oil in the waterway. Chevron was fined $423,600 by pipeline regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation, but Payne said that was "nothing to one of the richest companies in America. Is this just a pay-to-pollute management strategy?"
Those reactions are understandable, Johnson said.
"When this kind of thing happens -- when one spill follows another after six months -- you're going to get a variety of reactions from the community. You're going to get anger and dismay and disappointment," he said. "We're going to work through this. Our company takes pride in its operation and safety, and this is obviously a disappointment."
Chevron pipeline officials were too busy containing spilled oil to inspect the valve housing to determine a cause for the leak, which occurred at a "block valve," one of many shut-off valves along the pipeline, Johnson said. It delivers crude oil 182 miles from Rangely, Colo., to Chevron's Salt Lake City refinery.
"We've been sucking oil out of the pipeline, and they haven't had a chance to put their finger on what happened at the block valve site," Johnson said.
Becker spokeswoman Lisa Harrison Smith confirmed the spill didn't reach nearby Red Butte Creek, but booms were placed in the creek as a precaution.
Vacuum trucks were pumping the oil from berms quickly constructed to contain the oil.
The city warned residents about vapors from the spill. There were no immediate reports of health problems or injuries.