NTSB Urges Better 911 Coordination by Pipeline Operators

The question of what caused a leak in a liquid propane pipeline on Nov. 1, 2007, near Carmichael, Miss., was answered Oct. 14 by the National Transportation Safety Board after a long meeting dealing with two incidents, an air ambulance crash in Milwaukee in June 2007 and the Carmichael incident, in which 430,600 gallons of propane leaked. The ensuing gas cloud destroyed four homes, killed two people, and injured seven others. The meeting was available as a webcast.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman ended the meeting by vowing to bring about regulatory changes that will prevent pipeline fires and explosions, so the board will no longer have to investigate such tragedies. The best-known of these recent incidents is the June 10, 1999, failure of an Olympic Pipe Line Company gasoline pipeline in Bellingham, Wash., which released 237,000 gallons of gasoline into a creek, subsequently igniting and causing three deaths.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a DOT agency, joined in NTSB's investigation of the Carmichael incident, which involved a Dixie Pipeline Company pipeline. According to NTSB, Dixie said property damage from the leak and fire totaled $3,377,247.

The board concluded a weld failed in the pipeline. It found corrosion, excavation damage, the controller's actions, and the operating conditions of the pipeline were not factors in the accident, and emergency responders performed well. But "current inspection and testing programs are not sufficiently reliable to identify features associated with longitudinal seam failures of ERW [electrical resistance welded] pipe prior to catastrophic failure in operating pipelines," and Dixie's oversight and evaluation of the effectiveness of its public education programs were inadequate, the board found.

It also concluded that the American Petroleum Institute's Recommended Practice 1162 should explicitly identify 911 emergency call centers as emergency response agencies included in pipeline operators' public education programs.

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