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The company is reopening most of its pipeline after an oil spill in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (UKTN) — The operator of a pipeline with the largest onshore crude oil spill in nine years has reopened all but the Kansas and northern Oklahoma stretch that encompasses the site of the rupture.

Canada-based TC Energy said in a statement Wednesday evening that the Keystone system has resumed operations from Canada to southern Nebraska and from there to south-central Illinois. It also operates the pipeline from northern Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.

The December 7 spill forced the company to shut down the Keystone system and dump about 14,000 barrels of heavy crude into a creek in northeastern Kansas that runs through rural Washington County pastures about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City . Each barrel is 42 gallons, the size of a household bathtub.

“The impacted segment of the Keystone pipeline system remains safely isolated as investigation, recovery, repair and recovery progress,” the company said in a statement. “This segment will not be restarted until it is safe to do so.”

Last week’s spill was the largest on the 4,345-mile Keystone System since it became operational in 2010 and the largest onshore spill since a Tesoro Corp. pipeline burst. in North Dakota in September 2013 leaked 20,600 barrels, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

The crude oil carried by the pipeline is extracted from tar sands in western Canada, can sink in water and, according to experts and environmentalists, may be more difficult to clean than more conventional crude oil. A 2016 National Academies of Sciences study said that the tar sands oil has an “exceptionally high density” compared to other crudes that “may pose particular challenges when they reach bodies of water.”

The company and officials have said no drinking water supplies have been affected, oil has not reached major waterways and no one has been evacuated. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that four dead animals and 71 dead fish had been recovered.

The EPA also said the company recovered 5,567 barrels of oil and water and 5,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated soil, or enough to fill about 24,000 bathtubs.

Concerns that spills could pollute waterways led to opposition to plans by TC Energy to build another crude oil pipeline in the same system, the 1,200-mile (1,900 kilometers) Keystone XL, through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. President Joe Biden’s revocation of a permit for the project prompted the company to pull the plug last year.

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