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Colonial Pipeline Company Restores Resources Damaged by Oil Spill

Date Posted: July 6, 2011

On June 2, 2011, following certification by the National Resource Trustees, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia recognized that Colonial Pipeline Company had met the requirements for natural resource restoration caused by a pipeline rupture.

On March 28, 1993, a section of pipeline owned and operated by the Colonial Pipeline Company burst near the Sugarland Run in Reston, Virginia. Approximately 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel ran overland and discharged into Sugarland Run. While some of the oil was contained using “booms,” a significant amount still found its way into the Potomac River. Floodwater from heavy spring rains carried the oil beyond the banks of the river, also contaminated riparian woodlands.

Map of Virginia showing location of Sugarland Run near Reston, Virginia.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and other trustees, conducted a Natural Resource Damage Assessment to determine the spill’s effects on fish, wildlife and the public’s ability to use the land and its natural resources.

Some of these projects included: creating a fish passage through Little Falls Dam to restore shad and other fish species’ spawning habitat; planting a 50 foot-wide buffer zone of native trees and shrubs on both banks of the badly eroded Sugarland Run; and improving existing forests and open fields through reforestation, thinning of the forest canopy, creating snags for cavity nesting birds and removing invasive exotic species.

Several recreational projects were also completed such as making a viewing platform and trail in Great Falls Park handicapped-accessible, rehabilitating a boathouse and picnic and landscape and beautification projects to stabilize eroded slopes. Wildlife viewing and nature interpretation was enhanced at Dyke Marsh in George Washington Memorial Parkway by constructing a raised wetland boardwalk, improving the access trail, and installing interpretive signs.

Although the Colonial Pipeline oil spill caused considerable injury to the environment of Sugarland Run and disrupted recreational uses along the Potomac River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, along with the Commonwealth of Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the Colonial Pipeline Company, worked together to restore the natural resources and recreational opportunities of the Potomac River and Sugarland Run.


Sherry Krest 410/573-4525

Kathryn Reshetiloff  410-573-4582


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office

Last updated: June 12, 2015