Williams Transco explosion in Appomattox Virginia 2008-11-14

Almost $1 million PHMSA fine to Williams Transco for safety regulation violations that let corrosion continue until a pipeline exploded near Appomattox, Virginia in 2008, taking out two homes and injuring five people, with local and state governments footing the bill as usual for the pipeline company failure. Yet Transco let much the same thing happen again in 2011 in Marengo County, Virginia, after which even PHMSA said “Transco has a history of cathodic protection [corrosion] concerns on other segments.”

The Lynchburg News & Advance wrote 11 August 2009, Company fined in Appomattox pipeline explosion,

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration levied a $952,500 fine on Williams Gas Pipeline, which operates the Transco line, after federal investigators found possible failures to “address regulatory requirements for monitoring and preventing external corrosion,” according to an agency news release issued on Tuesday.

This is the same Transco of the proposed Southeast Market Pipelines Project from Alabama through Georgia to Florida and the sea where three companies already have LNG export authorization right at the end of that Transco->Spectra->FPL pipeline chain:

27 July 2011 Crowley Maritime’s Carib Energy
14 November 2013 Floridian Natural Gas (FLiNG)
12 December 2013 Goven

And FLiNG “expects to quadruple its LNG capacity in the first quarter of 2016”.

Pipeline Safety Trust Information about the September 14, 2008 Transco Pipeline Accident in Appomattox Virginia has a list of news stories and images. That Virginia explosion even made Snopes.com because it was caused by corrosion, not by a backhoe rupture.

According to the Preliminary Findings in the 25 September 2008 PHMSA Corrective Action Order,

  • At approximately 7:44 am. EDT on September 14, 2008, Respondent’s TPL Line B failed at Mile Post (MP) 1459.73 near the town of Appomattox, Virginia (Appomattox County). The incident was reported to the National Response Center (NRC Report No. 383754).
  • The failure resulted in the release of an undetermined amount of gas which ignited producing a large ļ¬reball and resulting in a 37-foot wide, 15-foot deep crater and a bum zone approximately 1125 feet in diameter. Emergency responders including the Appomattox Fire Department, Virginia State Police, and Appomattox County Sheriff responded to the scene and evacuated approximately 23 families and closed nearby roads including Route 26 and Route 460. Five individuals were injured requiring hospitalization and two houses were destroyed in the fire.

Pipeline company secrecy about affected landowners continued even after that massive accident. Lynchburg News And Advance, 3 October 2008, Problems found near Appomattox blast site,

“We are working with all affected homeowners to ensure their concerns are addressed. We are in the process of arranging home inspections, home repairs, water well and septic analysis for homes which may have been affected.”

Stockton said he can’t comment on any settlement issues.

“We want to protect the privacy of all affected landowners and any discussion about settlements is considered private and confidential,” he said. “However, I can say that we are working with landowners to determine any losses and damages they incurred due to the incident.”

Landowners in the paths of other proposed pipelines might want to know about those settlements. And first responders and local and state governments might want to know if those in Virginia ever got compensated for cleaning up a pipeline company mess.

Yet a similar Transco explosion happened three years later in Marengo County, Alabama. According to the PHMSA 6 December 2011 Corrective Action Order CPF No. 2-2011-1011H,

On December 3, 2011, one of the five parallel natural gas pipelines in Transco ruptured in Marengo County, Alabama. The force of the rupture created a large crater and propelled a 47-foot, 3-inch piece of buried pipe more than 200 feet away. The releasing gas also ignited and continued to burn for several hours, causing damage to one of the adjoining pipelines and scorching approximately eight acres of surrounding property. There were no reported evacuations, injuries, or fatalities.

Months later, corrosion was determined to be the cause, according to Jason Cannon in the Demopolis Times 21 February 2012, Corrosion cited in pipeline explosion,

“Although we have systems and processes in place to prevent and identify corrosion, our investigation indicated there were multiple factors working in conjunction that led to this problem not being recognized,” said Transco spokesman Chris Stockton. “Extremely corrosive soil conditions, combined with failures in the pipeline’s protective coating and cathodic protection system ultimately weakened the pipe, causing it to rupture.”

So why should we trust any pipeline proposed to gash under our famously acidic blackwater rivers in south Georgia and Florida?

All anomalies are being carefully investigated and any metal loss indications will be repaired prior to placing the pipeline back in service,” Stockton said. “Once all anomalies have been repaired, the pipe will be hydrostatically tested, which involves filling the pipe with water and pressure-testing it at considerably higher pressures than our normal operating pressures. Once all of these tests are complete, we will seek PHMSA’s permission to restore the line back to service.

As EPA asked about the proposed Sabal Trail pipeline through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, where will pipeline companies get that water? From the Floridan Aquifer, risking sinkholes? Or from that famously acidic surface water? And, as EPA also asked, where will the testing water go? Back into the aquifer? Back into groundwater? And contaminated with what?

The 6 December 2011 PHMSA Order to Williams Transco also said:

Certain operating records for that line are not available at this time, including the results of any post-installation hydrostatic pressure testing and a recent ILI inspection. Visual observations at the failure site also show indications of wall loss as a result of external corrosion, and Transco has a history of cathodic protection concerns on other segments. The force of the rupture created a large crater and propelled a buried piece of pipe more than 200 feet away from the point of impact. The ensuing fire also damaged an adjoining pipeline and scorched 8 acres of surrounding property. WPLP has not determined whether the conditions that caused the failure exist on other portions of Transco.

Where can we see those “certain operating records” for the rest of Transco’s pipelines? And for Spectra’s pipelines? Don’t the pipeline companies want us to see them, so we can all be assured those companies have learned something from their previous accidents?

Isn’t the list of known Williams Company accidents long enough already?


5 thoughts on “Williams Transco explosion in Appomattox Virginia 2008-11-14

  1. I was seeking information on the Marengo Co., Alabama accident and what corrective action orders were given to the Williams Companies, when I clicked on the site
    suggested here, it said that page was not available. If I make a FOIA request, will that information be provided? Thank you.

  2. Nice.its good that Landowners in the paths of other proposed pipelines might want to know about those settlements. And first responders and local and state governments might want to know if those in Virginia ever got compensated for cleaning up a pipeline company mess.

  3. What about the gas explosion in Senacca Falls in New York, in 2008? No news organization was able to report on this. (only Free Speech TV aired anything about this). The organization FERC was fracking in a salt mine under the lake and exploded. ‘We the people’ are treated like idiots and the corporations are allowed to ruin and control ‘our’ planet.

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