Oil, That Is...

A Bubblin' Crude

by Royal Nadeau

Discovering oil in New Jersey is not usually the happy occasion it may be in other parts of the world. Most often, it means trouble. But the problems discovered a few years ago in Newfoundland, had an interesting history.

The first major oil pipeline in the United States, built by the Standard Oil Company, ran from Olean, New York to Bayonne, crossing Sussex and Morris Counties in the New Jersey Highlands. The first 6-inch line from Olean to Bayonne was laid in 1881 and spanned a distance of 315 miles; the second 6-inch line was laid in 1882; the third in 1884; and finally, the fourth one in the late 1880s, making the total capacity of the system over 50,000 barrels a day.

Sketch of the first major pipeline in the United States that transferred crude oil from Olean, New York to Bayonne, NJ showing locations of pumping stations.

At first, the company directors worried that the project would never turn a profit as the oil fields in Olean were estimated to run dry within fifteen years. They could not foresee that new, yet-to-be-discovered oil fields in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and other locations would keep oil flowing day and night through the Olean-Bayonne line for more than 45 years, yielding a return many times the original investment of five million dollars.

The intent was to run the line as straight as the landscape allowed, without making any attempt to avoid river crossings or mountain ranges. Running due east from Olean before dipping south and finally crossing the New Jersey state line at Unionville near Oil City Road, the line crossed fourteen rivers, twenty creeks and eighty mountain peaks, varying in heights from 1,400 to 2,530 feet.

One of the few, if not only, remaining pumping stations in existence. The buildings are intact but the pumps and boilers have been removed to make room for its current function.

The lines were buried to a depth of 18 inches in the ground. In very cold weather the oil thickened, and movement would slow especially in the exposed stretches. Hot salt brine coming up with the oil in the well would be carried in the pipe along with the oil to help keep the oil flowing. This same technology is employed today in Russia to move crude oil from the fields above the Arctic Circle to the lower latitudes. But as the pipes corrode from the inside out, oil escapes and causes a "spill".

I was not aware that the Olean to Bayonne pipeline even existed until I was asked to investigate an oil spill in the Pequannock River. On February 12, 1996, U.S. EPA Region II was notified by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) of an oil sheen extending along the north side of the Pequannock River. After conducting a walkover of the site, the EPA initiated oil spill containment and removal under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, due to the potential threat to the City of Newark's public water supply. That's when my friend and colleague, On-Scene Coordinator Mike Solecki, requested that I make a site visit to advise him as to how best to remove the oil contaminating the wetland. But first we had to figure out where the oil was coming from in the first place.

After talking to some of the folks living in the area, we learned that the spill site had once been the location of a pumping station on an oil pipeline that transported crude oil from the Southern Tier in New York State to refineries in Bayonne. The pipeline contained 11 similarly constructed pumping stations along the way, each one approximately 28 miles from the last. The significant NY pumping stations were in Olean, Wellsville, Cameron Mills, West Junction, Catatonk, Osborne Hollow, and Hancock. The New Jersey stations were located in Newfoundland, Saddle River, and Bayonne. Each station was equipped with duplicate boilers, engines, and Worthington pumps so that in the event of a breakdown, the oil would continue to flow without interruption. (Worthington is a big name in industrial pumps but also is a name well known in the Highlands as being associated with the family summer estate that became Worthington State Park at the southern tip of the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap.) The boiler houses contained seven 80-horsepower steam boilers.

There were a number of places that the oil rose
to the surface in the marsh where groundwater would normally surcharge. Under normal conditions, these “springs” would keep the soils moist and conducive for wetland species. At the Newfoundland site, oil would rise to the surface along with the groundwater creating what Mike Solecki referred to as “spooges”; a term that is now commonly accepted in the oil spill
response community.
(Below) The recovery and monitor wells are now permanently capped.

Along with the actual pumping machinery were a number of large cast iron tanks that held the oil before it was pumped into the next portion of the pipe. The problem, we learned, was that these tanks were constructed without any bottoms other than compacted earth. The oil/water mixture was pumped into the tanks with the hope that the oil would separate and float on the water in the tank. Unfortunately, this bottom water did not always serve as a seal, and oil seeped into the soil beneath. Over the forty-year operation of the pipeline, unknown quantities of oil were lost to the underlying soils. At the Newfoundland pumping station, it took nearly a hundred years for this subterranean oil sitting on the groundwater to finally make its way out to the adjacent marsh and subsequently into the nearby Pequannock River.

By March, hydro-geologic and geophysical investigations were completed in order to assess the extent of groundwater contamination and to establish groundwater flow conditions. Scores of shallow soil borings were completed so that soil, groundwater and oil samples could be collected and analyzed. In August 1998, a product (oil) recovery system consisting of a 30-foot deep, 6-inch diameter recovery well, and a groundwater injection gallery were installed 150 feet upgradient (above the level) of the extraction well. In addition, a monitoring network made up of 2-inch wide monitor wells was installed to better define the thickness and movement of the oil layer.

A two-phase pump recovered oil and water separately from the extraction well, and the product was then pumped to an on-site storage tank. The untreated groundwater was reinjected upgradient to encourage the oil to flow towards the recovery wells. Subsequently, an additional recovery system was installed that included a 100 foot interceptor trench 30 feet deep with another recovery well on the down gradient end that increased the efficiency of recovering the oil.

The author revisits the site of his handywork, one of the recovery wells.

Stream bank stabilization and anti-erosion devices (coir logs) were installed by the EPA with the technical assistance of US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the autumn of 1998. The initial response by the City of Newark had removed several inches of contaminated soil and vegetation from the marsh. A revegetation and planting scheme was formulated by the NRCS and implemented in spring, 1999 consisting of planting mostly woody wetland species to simulate the wetland type on the opposite shore. Herbaceous and grass species were planted on the coir logs at the river edge. Thus far, better than 90% survival has been observed, and this project has served as a model for revegetating and restoring contaminated habitat at oil spill and brownfields sites across the country.

The recovery of the subsurface oil at the Newfoundland site was terminated in the fall of 2005 with more than 60,000 gallons of oil being removed. Oil is no longer seeping into the wetland and contaminating the Pequannock River, the main waterway that connects all the major reservoirs of the City of Newark's water supply in the New Jersey Highlands. The site is visited on a regular basis, especially in the spring following the snow melt, to see if any oil still present on the groundwater might be seeping into the marsh and threatening the nearby Pequannock River.

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01 Feb 2018, 16:30
Found 4-8" pipes running along West 7th St. in Bayonne NJ crossing Rt.440 and Avenue A. Would anyone know the history on these pipes?
24 Aug 2017, 13:34
The old pumping station on Carneige Rd. Westtown has been bought and is a Marble Cutting Buisness I have heard. The Oleen to Bayonne Line of 1881.
George Scherer
24 Aug 2017, 12:53
Please send me new comments posted to this page
Inayat Jilani
04 Dec 2015, 18:58
In North Edison Township, NJ, there is a pipeline marker on Salem Street/Fleet Ave. The sign states there is a high pressure petroleum line and also a conduit for fiber optic cable. How could I confirm if the petroleum line is still active, or it is currently used to carry fiber optic cable? Is there a way to confirm the information? Any help or directions to get the information will be of tremendous help.Thank you, Inayat Jilani
good luck
02 Jun 2014, 05:51
can you supply drill pipes for contract.
Chuck Gullage
23 Nov 2013, 16:36
Thanks for the information David. We had a paddling tour of the Musconetcong River in the Changewater area recently and found there were actually four pipelines crossing the river between the tank farm and pumping station. All were 6 inch pipes and very old and rusty. Chevron told us there were only two pipelines and that they were filled with concrete and made inert. Of course we are dubious and will ask them to remove all of them.\r\n\r\nBTW, we are pretty sure that the pipeline in Finesville is an old water pipe.\r\n\r\nChuck Gullage\r\nTrustee Emeritus - Musconetcong Watershed Association
David Middlebrook
23 Nov 2013, 15:45
I believe Finesville is too far South for the Tidewater Pipeline. From Changewater it crosses the Delaware River at Hutchinson (between Phillpsburg and Belvidere). For a short period of time the flow of the pipeline was reversed to service a storage facility at Windgap PA. (Check the web). I have been trying to find the location of the South Plainfield terminal. Ron, if you could provide an address or steet name I would appreciate it. Roger, the pipes were not built at the same time, the second pipe was an addition. I often wondered why they didn't build the second pipe with a larger diameter, even going from 6 inches to 8 inches would have make a big difference.
Chuck Gullage
22 May 2013, 13:46
Does anyone know if a portion of this pipeline ran through Finesville, Warren County, NJ? I do water quality monitoring for the Musconetcong Watershed Association on the Musconetcong River. Recently we discovered a very old 4" iron pipeline buried in the streambed crossing the Musconetcong River in Finesville in an area where we plan to do some work with heavy equipment in the river. If it is an abandoned oil pipeline we do not want to crush the pipe from running a trackhoe over it. Any information on this pipeline would be appreciated.\r\n\r\nThanks,\r\nChuck Gullage\r\nTrustee Emeritus - Musconetcong Watershed Association.
Ron Williamson
17 Jan 2013, 11:41
David Middlebrook said the last pumping station was Changewater NJ. The last pumping station going east was South Plainfield, NJ. I was a truck driver for getty Oil CO. hauling #2 oil out of the Changewater terminal. Once in a while, while they were pumpnig heavy we would haul kerosene to South Plainfield NJ and Hudsondale PA. Ralph Lomerson worked out of the loading terminal, Some of the employes were Hank Mayer Line Foreman, Arnold Wyings, Bill Wyings\r\nA good story to read about the Tidewater pipe line, go to Google and type in Tidewater Pipeline- Coryville, PA Makes you think About who laided the first pipe line.
Frank Fenner
01 Dec 2012, 07:32
I found signs that say high-pressure petroleum and fiber optic cable lines on top of Wind gap hill pa on a piece of land I recently purchased on the deed it has a right away for Tidewater pipe company is the Williamsport to bayone run
Roger Bacon
22 Oct 2012, 11:03
Interesting article. I saw the pipeline yesterday on the fall foliage train excursion along the Lehigh river from Jim Thorpe. I am also familiar with the pipeline passing through Changewater. Why were two pipes required? There is a connection in my family on my dad's side with respect to Worthington pumps.\r\n\r\nRoger Bacon\r\nPhillipsburg, NJ
nick Combates
21 May 2012, 09:08
In Lebanon Township, NJ, there is a pipeline marker on Little Brook Road.\r\n\r\nThe sign states there is a high pressure petroleum line and also a conduit for fiber optic cable.\r\n\r\nIs the petroleum line still active, or is it currently used to carry fiber optic cable as stated above? Is there a way to confirm the information?\r\n\r\nThank you, Nick Combates
02 Apr 2012, 06:21
Minisink Bicentennial I mean.
02 Apr 2012, 06:10
The tank fields were on a hill at the corner of State Line and Oil City Road. Coords: 41.290573,-74.542859. I know this because my house was at the bottom of the hill. In the mid-80's the Town of Minisink put together a small photographic history book for its centennial. One of the pictures was of my hill and was titled something like "Great Oil City Fire." You clearly saw the tank fields on fire. First I had ever heard of the oil history in my backyard. When you were walking the AT you were very close to the old tank field. Hope this helps.
Mark Wallace
13 Nov 2011, 16:07
I now heard the oil lines ran up to the top of Pochuck Mt. This helps with direction.
Mark Wallace
21 Aug 2011, 07:08
Looking at a google map, a straight line from Unionville NY pumping station to Newfoundland pumping station may have kept the pipe line between Wallkill River and Rt. 284 or it crossed the Wallkill right at the location of the Unionville pumping station. Any ideas how we can find out the direction of the pipeline out of the Unionville pumping station? I also did a google satellite search and a walk along the AT at the Pumping station and can find no clue of the tank field. Would the tank fields be level with the pumps or elevated?
07 Aug 2011, 19:30
this is very interesting to me!!!i live in rixford pa and right down the road from us there is the ruins of a pump house maybe idk to be sure but if any one has any info to share bout round here i would love to hear about i have been looking for history about rixford on the internet and have not come up with a whole lot!!!!
Mark Wallace
29 Jun 2011, 12:19
I live on Oil City Rd. in NJ, it is not connected to the Oil City Rd. in NY (may have been at one time). The pump house you have a photo of is still there on state Line Rd Between the two Oil City Rds. I hear it was a toxic waste clean up site( not on any current list I can find), at one time. Carnegie Industries(light manufacturing built in 1925 it states) 17,000 sq ft for sale now about $388,000 in Unionville, NY. I would like to know the directions of the pipeline in and out.Local rumor is that our rd got that name because of leaks in the pipeline. Would be nice to know if it is near my well or not.
Paul Gavin
31 Jan 2011, 06:01
Right next to the "Getty Pipeline - Changewater" sign on Blair Road, Carteret are 2 Orange Fiber Optic markers. Did Williams Communications/Wiltel buy the Getty Pipeline from Texaco in the 1990s? Wiltel sold its Network Operations LDDS/MCI Worldcom in 1995. Was Getty Pipeline sold to them in this Network Operations sale? Or did Wiltel retain it after the sale of its Network Operations to LDDS/MCI Worldcom? In 2005, Wiltel's remaining assets were bought out of Bankruptcy by Level 3? So, who owns the Getty Pipeline today???
Bob Bartnett
27 Jan 2011, 11:49
Did Wiltel buy the line(s) from Getty?
Bob Bartnett
27 Jan 2011, 11:29
How many Getty lines were on Blair rd.?
David Middlebrook
26 Jan 2011, 15:23
It either goes through Carteret or it passes just West of Carteret. Below is the path through the area:\r\n\r\nCrosses Rt 35 by the tracks next to the Woodbridge Public Library.\r\n\r\nCrosses Rahway Ave. by the Rahway Ave. Park (near the power lines).\r\n\r\nCrosses Omar Ave. by the railroad tracks, (close to the Blair Rd. intersection).\r\n\r\nThe Eastern most sign I found was on Blair Rd., just before it intersects with Roosevelt Ave.\r\n\r\nI was told the pipeline crossed into Staten Island on it's way to Bayonne, but I haven't been able to verify this.\r\n
Bob Bartnett
26 Jan 2011, 07:27
I meant Carteret, NJ.
Bob Bartnett
26 Jan 2011, 07:09
I found the Getty sign in Carteet, NJ along with the Wiltel fiber optics sign.\r\nIs this the same pipeline that runs through Changewater?
David Middlebrook
04 Nov 2010, 18:10
Yes, the Tidewater Pipeline passed through Lebanon Township. As I mentioned the pumping station was in Changewater along the Musconetcong River. It crossed Springtown Rd, went through the Hawk Pointe Golf Club. It crossed 31 just North of the "One Stop Ace Home Center". And it crossed Rt 57 at the intersection of Halfway House Rd.\r\n\r\nRalph Lomerson (who was the Lebanon Township Historian), used to be a foreman for the Tidewater Pipeline. I am sorry to say that Ralph passed away July 17, 2010.
John D'Alessio
04 Nov 2010, 11:22
Does this line run through Laebanon Township? I understand a line runs behind my home and I'm trying to figure out which one.
Ellis Krott
05 Mar 2010, 08:35
Tidewater Pump Station In Rixford PA\r\nwas torn down in Sept 2006. In later years it was owned by Bradford Transit Company. Tidewater line was built by independent oil producers as Standard Oil would not take their oil in their lines. As a young boy I used to go to the pump station and watch the operators use the telegraph system to communicate with other stations on the line.
David Middlebrook
24 Aug 2009, 15:30
The pipeline that crossed Frank Beatty's farm was probably the Tidewater pipeline. The pipeline started in Rixford PA. It originally terminated in Williamsport PA, but by 1886 it had reached Bayonne NJ. The pipeline is now owned by Williams Tele-Communications and is now used as a conduit for fiber optic cable. The pipeline can be identified by rectangular orange signs at some road crossings (unfortunately not all road crossings are identified). There are also a few older signs that are identified as "Getty - Changewater NJ". Changewater NJ was the location of the last pumping station before Bayonne. There is a historical marker where the pipeline crosses the Lehigh River on a suspension bridge, (located in the Lehigh River Gorge State Park). Listed below are some of the major road crossings in NJ: Rt 31 (South of Washington NJ), Vernoy Rd North of Califon NJ), Liberty Corner Road (South of Mt. Horeb Rd), Washington Rd (South of Dunellen, NJ).
Richard Dean
14 Jun 2009, 14:17
Living in Butler NJ all my life and with family in the area since about 1829, I never knew about this pipeline until picking up a copy of "The Next Station" series that dealt with the NYS&W here in New Jersey. According to that book it followed the NYS&W between Newfoundland (Jefferson Township, Morris County) and Midland Park (Bergen county). I understand that sometime after the City of Newark established it's Pequannock Watershed in the 1880's, a leak caused contamination with Newark gaining a court order forcing Mr Rockefeller to build a bypass north and east through the present day Hewitt section of West Milford, Ringwood and Wanaque with it rejoining the established pipeline in Pompton Lakes. Some of the piers still exist where it crossed rivers and streams.
Frank S. Beatty
15 May 2009, 06:39
I grew up on a 180 acre farm between Liberty Corner & Pluckamin NJ. We had an East West Pipeline through the southern part of the farm, It must have come through Far Hills or Bedminster. About 1935 crews came threw and refurbished the line. I was about 8 or 10 at the time. Thought this might be of interest,
01 Sep 2008, 21:51
hi,i'm looking for information about how road crossings are built over a pipeline,how the pipe is protected
Dudley Warner
07 Jul 2008, 11:47
I am looking for information about other (ie Texas-Eastern)pipelines in Bayonne, NJ. Can you sugest potential resources for investigating abandoned pipelines?
nat hendricks
28 Apr 2008, 07:42
Good morning... Do you have any more information on the National Transit Pipeline. Construction, route maps, further pollution etc.\r\n\r\nThanks. \r\n\r\nNat Hendricks\r\n336 State St\r\nBrooklyn, NY 11217\r\n\r\nTel: 718.834.1010
steve schiefer
06 Feb 2008, 17:17
Could you tell me if this pipeline came down the Susquehanna railroad right of way.If it did where did it start on the NYS&W RR. and where did it leave. I seen a building on route 97 in the town of Cochton, NY. I was told this a oil pump station this sits along the old ERIE RR main line.is this part of the pipeline.\r\nThanks-- Steve Schiefer
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