Probe of Alyeska pipeline oil spill uncovers pattern of problems

The company that runs the trans-Alaska pipeline remains under federal investigation and is in the middle of major changes after an internal probe this summer raised serious concerns about how it handled a major pipeline leak and emergency shutdown in May.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s internal review blamed the May 25 accident -- the third-largest oil spill in the pipeline's history -- on a technical glitch, potential design failures and a series of human mistakes.

The review said the spill of about 190,000 gallons of oil at a pump station near Delta Junction fits into part of a pattern of similar "significant" pipeline incidents over the past three years. Despite internal probes of those cases, the findings "have not been communicated well throughout the organization," according to the report written by Alyeska's six-member investigative team.

To this day, federal regulators are still requiring Alyeska to keep additional workers at the pump station around the clock, inspecting for leaks or other problems.

The internal report was completed in June and shared with state and federal regulators in July but it wasn't shared with the public until last week, when a pipeline watchdog, Richard Fineberg, posted on the Web a redacted version that he obtained from state officials.

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