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City officials, residents voice pipeline concerns

8/15/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — New Franklin officials and residents expressed concerns over the July 22 gas pipeline rupture that took place near West Nimisila and Daley roads.

The matter was discussed at the Aug. 7 New Franklin City Council meeting as Dominion East Ohio officials Tracy Stevens, external affairs manager, and Leighton McCoy, storage manager, presented an update on the incident.

Stevens explained the pipe that ruptured involved an 8-inch steel line that was built in 1957 and is a storage line for gas that is found in the natural sandstone of the area.

Fire Chief Steven Leslie said a call about an “explosion” came in at 6:03 a.m. that day.

A Center Road resident said the noise from the rupture was “so loud tenants in the apartment could not hear themselves talk and could not hear their phones ring.”

Dominion officials were at the site 20 minutes later to assess the situation, which Leslie called “a very good response time.” Leslie said they found a break in the line, a 10-foot diameter crater and gas dissipating straight up into the air. Fire Department personnel monitored the air quality in the area, and while there was no visible danger, they decided to evacuate a half-mile area downwind from the site as a precaution and expanded it a little farther after that, according to Leslie.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials also were on site taking samples, according to Stevens.

Stevens said when officials confirmed there was no fire, they were able to bring the pressure down and shut off the line by 7 a.m.

Leighton stated a 30-foot section of the pipe was removed and sent to an “independent third party” for testing. Stevens said the report on those results will go to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA). Leighton added the results of the tests will determine whether the failure happened from the inside or the outside of the pipe, and “will give us direction on [how to handle] the rest of the pipe.”

As for the cause, Stevens said to date Dominion officials only know the gas line rupture was not deliberately caused by an individual. She also told about 25 residents attending the meeting the incident was “an abnormality in our system.”

“We take the safety and security of both the pipelines and those living around them very seriously,” she added. “Dominion East Ohio does annual testing and inspection of the pipes, and PUCO audits those findings.”

Stevens and Leighton also responded to a number of questions from residents and city officials, including where pipelines are located in the city and could such an incident happen again, given the age of some of those lines.

Stevens said information about the locations of Dominion’s pipelines is available at www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov. She also explained the company is in the fifth year of a 12-year infrastructure replacement program.

Summit County Councilman Tim Crawford (D-District 7), whose district includes New Franklin, also attended the meeting and asked why the line was not shut off sooner.

“Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is shut off the valve or shut off the wrong one,” said Stevens. “Sometimes it is better to let the gas dissipate.”

Councilman Terry Harget (Ward 2) asked about the lack of a Summit County automated phone notification system to alert residents regarding the incident.

Leslie explained that currently, there is a 30-minute protocol that involves assessing the situation, faxing a request to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which then notifies the county system. Leslie said there was one person on dispatch at the time, and she was taking in many 9-1-1 calls about the incident, which tied up lines and personnel.

Bollas said he is looking into the phone alert system area schools use to determine if there is a faster method of communicating with residents about potential dangers.

During the business part of the meeting, Council adopted the following legislation on first reading:

  • an amendment to the Summit County 9-1-1 plan to include the Southwest Summit Council of Governments as a public safety answering point;
  • to accept a U.S. Department of Justice Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant in the amount of $8,800, including a 50 percent match from New Franklin; and
  • the transfer of funds in five separate fund lines.

The meeting is available online for viewing at www.newfranklin.org under “Meetings and News,” and a DVD copy of the meeting is available for a small fee at City Hall, 5611 Manchester Road.

The next regular meeting will take place Aug. 21 starting at 6 p.m. with committee meetings, immediately followed by the regular meeting at City Hall.

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