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PUCO, Dominion continuing investigation of pipeline incident

12/5/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) officials are continuing their investigation of a July 22 incident involving the rupture of a Dominion East Ohio pipeline near West Nimisila and Dailey roads.

According to Dominion officials, the pipe that ruptured involved an 8-inch steel line built in 1957, carried 1,400 pounds per square inch and is a storage line for gas found in the natural sandstone of the area.

The break in the line created a 10-foot-diameter crater, and gas was found dissipating straight up into the air, but there was no fire, according to New Franklin Fire Department personnel that responded to the 6 a.m. incident.

In the Nov. 29 South Side News Leader, in a story titled, “City searching for gas pipeline break cause,” it was reported that New Franklin officials discussed the rupture during the Nov. 20 Council meeting. Mayor Al Bollas reported at the meeting that Leighton McCoy, storage manager for Dominion East Ohio, recently told city officials, “This problem was not of PUCO concern; therefore, there is no record of the incident on file at PUCO.”

When contacted after the meeting, Neil Durbin, a spokesman for Dominion, said, “The event was not a reportable incident as defined by PUCO regulations. According to PUCO, incidents are classified as ‘reportable’ based on property damage/injury incurred as [a] result of [an] incident, which did not apply in this incident.”

However, PUCO was notified of the incident and it was also reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, according to PUCO officials.

John Williams, director of PUCO’s Service Monitoring and Enforcement Department, clarified Dec. 3 that the pipeline rupture “is a jurisdictional incident.”

“It is something we are looking at and it is still under investigation,” said Williams. “We are waiting on final reports. The duty is on the operator [Dominion] to conduct this investigation.”

Williams explained Dominion must file a report every 60 days on the investigation until the final report is done. He said he did not have that final report from Dominion yet, but there was “no deadline” for it.

“We want to make sure the investigation is thorough and complete,” he said. “We are looking over their shoulder to make sure they hire independent firms for this.”

When contacted immediately after the Nov. 20 New Franklin Council meeting, Durbin had stated a report on tests done on the pipe showed “the presence of some internal corrosion in the ruptured line” and “confirmation that the rupture was not caused by a systematic problem attached to pipe type, year and manufacturer.”

Bollas stated at the meeting McCoy told city officials the pipeline rupture was “an operator communication error, along with the construction that was being performed at the time.”

Durbin said this week that Dominion is continuing its investigation.

“Dominion East Ohio expects to receive a final lab analysis report from our independent consultant by the end of this year,” he said. “We would then expect to make a final report to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio by the end of the first quarter of 2014.”

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