Oil Spill Adds to Kansas Flooding Misery

By: Candice Sorensen Email
By: Candice Sorensen Email

(CBS/AP) The flood is bad enough, engulfing homes to the rooftops and turning neighborhoods into floating junkyards of children's toys and family heirlooms.

But the water also carries an extra curse Tuesday as a slick of 42,000 gallons of thick crude oil floated downstream with the mud and debris, coating everything it touched with a slimy, smelly layer of goo.

"My question is how are they going to get all that oil out of the environment," said Mary Burge, a heart surgery patient who had to breathe from a portable oxygen tank because the petroleum odor Monday was so strong it could be detected by the crews of helicopters passing overhead.

A malfunction allowed the oil to spill from the Coffeyville Resources refinery on Sunday, while the plant was shutting down in advance of the flood heading toward it on the Verdigris River.

Though the water was beginning to recede early Tuesday, it was still too high to allow anyone into the refinery, said Jim Miller, Montgomery County emergency manager.

"The water is still going into the refinery," Miller said. "As far as access to that, just nobody is going in there."

The Verdigris River had crested but the water level remained high because water was still being released from the Elk City and Fall River Toronto Lake reservoirs farther upstream, Miller said.

"It's going to come down the Verdigris until they shut that water supply off," he said. "So it's just a matter of time."

Anything that got wet is likely ruined, including the contents of Dick Trotter's mother's house.

"It's hard to describe because I can sit back remembering when I did this and that, and now it's gone," said Trotter.

Cleanup of the toxic sludge will complicate long-term flood recovery efforts for Coffeyville.


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