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Firm: California spill went undetected due to pipeline work

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — The operator of a pipeline that spewed tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into a Southern California ravine said Friday it didn't detect the leak because the line was undergoing maintenance.

Crimson Pipeline said the remotely monitored line was emptied on Wednesday to replace valves.

Oil was flushed back in, but the pipeline wasn't at full capacity when the spill occurred and there wasn't enough oil in the line to detect a drop in pressure, company spokeswoman Kendall Klingler said.

Workers shut down the line after receiving a call from a resident who was in his Ventura backyard when he noticed a noxious odor and rode his motor scooter through the ravine until finding the source of the leak.

At least 25,000 gallons of crude flowed Thursday into a brush- and tree-filled arroyo. Firefighters were able to stop the crude before it could reach the ocean by building a dirt dam.

The cause of the spill is under investigation. It occurred near a valve on the underground line that runs from Ventura to Los Angeles.

The spill was the 11th for Denver-based Crimson since 2006, according to records filed with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. A total of 313,000 gallons of crude were released, causing $5.9 million in property damage.

Crimson has said most of the previous spills were caused by third parties.

The Ventura leak came a year after a pipeline rupture from another owner spilled 120,000 gallons of oil, marring the coast and killing wildlife in neighboring Santa Barbara County.

The operator, Plains All American Pipeline, was indicted on 46 criminal counts, including four felonies involving polluting state waters.

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