At the Helena, Ala., gas station closest to a gas leak, it was business as usual Monday afternoon. A gallon of regular gas was $1.99. (Photo: Alexis Stevens/astevens@ajc.com)

Need gas? There's plenty in Alabama

Across metro Atlanta, there have been long lines and high prices at gas stations, if there’s even gas at all. But within miles of the Colonial Pipeline gas leak south of Birmingham, Ala., no one’s panicking.

There is gas, and it’s generally under the $2-mark for a gallon of regular. At the Chevron gas station closest to the leak, the price was $1.99 Monday afternoon.

“It hasn’t really been a big deal,” local resident J.T. Thornton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s conversation around the office.”

“You’re real close to the gas,” another customer said. “But you ain’t gotta worry about it. They got it covered.”

That’s because the 336,000 gallons spilled at a point in the 36-inch pipeline past where the immediate area gets its fuel. The area where the leak happened — a rural section of Shelby County, Ala., that’s part of a state-run wildlife management area — is closed to the public while hundreds work around the clock to create a bypass for the pipeline. It’s a fix that should be ready by the end of the week, a spokesman for Colonial Pipeline said.

The leak slowed the supply for parts of the Southeast, but by the end of the week, the pipeline bypass will allow for the same amount of fuel to flow through, Don Pozin with Colonial Pipeline said.

“If you have gas, you don’t need to top off,” Pozin said Monday afternoon. “It will take a little bit of time, but fuel will be arriving on a regular basis.”

Along I-20 in Alabama, it was business as usual at gas stations and no lines. In Pell City, Ala., about 75 miles west of Carrollton, Ga., and 30 miles outside of Birmingham, regular gas was $2.05 a gallon Monday afternoon, up a nickel from the previous day, a clerk said.

The spill had the potential to be an environmental catastrophe, according to David Butler with the Cahaba Riverkeeper. The river runs about three-quarters of a mile from where the leak happened, but a retention pond in the area absorbed some of the gas, Butler said.

The pipeline corporation and local authorities have given Butler’s agency access to the area, and so far there’s been minimal damage, he said. No fish have been killed, but some animals have been found dead, including two rabbits, a raccoon, a coyote, a fox, a dog, an egret and four turtles, Butler said. Various agencies will investigate how those animals died, he said.

Investigators will also continue to monitor groundwater, Butler said. But so far, the impact to the area has been minimal, he said.

“We feel like at this point, it won’t be an issue, but it will be monitored for years,” Butler said.

While the leak has kept him busy with work, Butler said he’s had no trouble getting gas to drive between the work site and the command center, about 20 miles away. Monday morning, he filled up for $1.89 a gallon near his home in Vestavia.

“Everyone filling up puts pressure on the supply,” Butler said.

But for now, the supply in areas surrounding the leak hasn’t been affected.

“We’re fine, hon,” a Chevron gas clerk said. “Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but so far, we’re doing fine.”

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