Oak Glen Nature Preserve crude oil spill investigation, cleanup continues

Prior inspection reports show dents in faulty pipe

This is part one of a two-part series examining the cleanup of an oil spill at a local preserve.  Coming Tomorrow: Workers turn over every stone in Oak Glen clean-up, restoration efforts;
       cost estimates near $4 million

CINCINNATI—More than a year before dozens of local, state and federal officials scrambled to contain thousands of gallons of crude oil spilling into a Colerain nature preserve, pipeline operators had discovered three dents near where the pipe cracked.

They did not report or take action on those “anomalies,” or 28 others in the same section of 64-year-old pipe, until after the leak occurred, according to a Department of Transportation Corrective Action Order (CAO).

A pipeline operator official said that none of the dents revealed during the 2013 inspection required further action, based on both federal regulations and guidelines included in the pipeline’s government-reviewed safety management plan.

Pipeline operators don’t typically provide individual inspection reports to federal authorities, said Jeff Shields, communications manager for Sunoco Logistics, whose subsidiary Mid-Valley Pipeline, operates the crude oil pipeline that runs through Hamilton County on it path from Texas to Michigan.

“The expectation is that the inspections are carried out and that repairs are completed according to the agreed-upon criteria,” Shields wrote. “These reports and subsequent repair records are subject to PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) review during routine audits.”

While the abnormalities and dents in the pipeline might not have been big enough to trigger immediate action, re-starting the pipeline before investigating those additional dents—some bigger than the ones detected near the crack—does raise questions, according to Rebecca Craven, program director at the Pipeline Safety Trust, a non-profit founded to ensure safer pipelines around the country.

“It’s a little disconcerting that they (PHMSA) didn’t require them to excavate those (additional dents) and determine whether they presented any risk to the pipe before the restart,” Craven said.

Insiders can read more from the report and why a reduction of staff and budget may be affecting investigations and pipeline safety, in general.


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