Those gas lines are 50-60 years old

February 13, 2014

Dear Editor,

I live on Springwood Lakes in Hamilton Township and I am one of those TAXPAYERS who is concerned about the Natural Gas Processing Facility that DCP Midstream is proposing to build in the northern part of the township. Our lakes are fed by underground springs so what concerns me most is one of the reasons that DCP cited for choosing this site—the presence of an underground pipeline infrastructure already in place. What REALLY concerns me is the fact that these pipes are 50 to 60 years old and the company does not seem concerned about that. Are they planning on having these pipes uncovered and checked for corrosion, cracks or breaches?

We moved up here from Kalamazoo in 2008. We used to fish in the Kalamazoo River for small mouth bass. On Sunday, July 25, 2010, a 40-foot pipe segment of an underground pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy (a Canadian company with headquarters in Edmonton) ruptured and poured thousands of gallons of heavy crude oil into Talmadge Creek which empties into the Kalamazoo River. Although alarms sounded at the Edmonton headquarters, it was EIGHTEEN HOURS before a Michigan utilities worker noticed and reported oil spilling and the pipeline company learned of the spill.
Meanwhile, pipeline operators, thinking that the alarms were caused by a bubble in the pipeline, increased pressure to try and clear the blockage, spilling even more oil into the wetlands. A 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River was closed and the EPA later estimated that in excess of 1,000,000 gallons leaked into the water table and waterways. As of March, 2013, the EPA estimated that 100,000 gallons of heavy crude oil-laced silt still remained and ordered Enbridge to start dredging.

What does this have to do with DCP and Hamilton Township? The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation found the following: The Company operating the pipeline received the automated alarm signals from the pipeline that a breach had occurred and continued to pump oil through the pipeline for eighteen hours after the breach. The NTSB investigation pointed to corrosion fatigue as the underlying cause of the catastrophic break. In 2005, Enbridge had learned that this section of pipe was cracked and corroding and chose not to dig it up and inspect it. That same 2005 report found 15,000 defects in the 40-year-old pipeline. What I want to know is what condition the 50 to 60 year-old pipes in Hamilton Township are in. I want to know how far DCP is willing to go to make sure something like this WILL NOT happen in our township.
But then, when I think about it, how will we know that everything is being done to protect our beautiful neck of the woods? Our own Representative, Joel Johnson, has stated that he and his staff have had difficulty getting answers to our questions. Frankly, Id’ rather not take the chance. Our spring-fed lakes are four miles down the road from the proposed DCP facility, but if a breach in the pipeline were to occur, I think that four miles would not be nearly far enough.

Sharon Kirby

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