Pipeline safety seminar raises awareness issues

By Sara Mosqueda-Fernandez, smfernandez@dailylocal.com
POSTED: 09/05/12, 12:49 AM EDT

WEST WHITELAND — Speakers at pipeline safety informational meeting Tuesday night said safety and awareness should be everyone’s concern.

During the latest educational session of pipeline safety seminars in the Struble Room of the Chester County Library in Exton, state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, predicted the future of Chester County will feature the expansion of current gas lines and the construction of new ones.

“There’s no profit from the Marcellus Shale unless this gets to market,” said Dinniman.“And the major place it will get to market is thru Chester County and (other) suburban counties on its way to the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia.The gas lines are going to come, make no mistake about it.That’s the future.”

The session, Pipeline Planning and You, also featured Aaron Stemplewicz, staff attorney for the Delaware RiverKeeper Network; Roberta Winters, vice president of Issues and Action for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania; and John Gaadt, principal of the environmental planning group Gaadt Perspectives as speakers.

This meeting was another in a series of public educational seminars that focused on informing Chester County residents about pipeline safety and the tools available to them to better prevent pipeline incidents and assist emergency responders.It has featured political, environmental, governmental, and municipal speakers, as well as representatives from pipeline companies.

This meeting aimed at informing attendees about:

•pipeline planning and the community;

•how pipeline construction activities are regulated;

•the officials concerned with pipeline safety;

•how community members can voice their concerns during the regulatory process; and

• the latest updates on pipelines and municipal zoning.

Dinniman said a pipeline issue affecting every homeowner and drinker of water in the county is a pipeline replacement proposal that will cross the Brandywine Creek at two locations.

This proposal comes from the Transcontinental Gas and Pipeline Co. (Transco), which is attempting to replace 2,200 feet of gas pipeline along the border of East Caln and East Brandywine.

Williams filed for a special permit with the Department of Environmental Protection to complete the project.In 2009, the agency denied the proposal to replace the 2,200-foot section due to the proposed methods of crossing the creek.

Williams is proposing a method of replacing the pipeline called a coffer dam.With that method, a section of the creek, about two-thirds of the width of the water, would be dammed off, allowing water to pass by on the other third.The water would then be pumped out of the dammed section and the company would dig a trench for the pipe.Under the damming method, about nine acres of land would be disturbed, and would take about two to three months with about two to three weeks spent in the water.

Aaron Stemplewicz, staff attorney at the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, was also a speaker at the pipeline informational meeting on Tuesday. Stemplewicz has previously stressed the environmental consequences of the coffer dam method, such as increased stormwater runoff, sediment erosion, and disturbance of natural habitats.

On Tuesday, Stemplewicz again encouraged audience members to be aware of pipeline companies’ activities in their communities, and to contact their legislative representatives and environmental agencies with any concerns.He also presented other avenues of information and action that are available to the public.

Winters and Stemplewicz encouraged attendees to pursue methods of involvement and education in the process, although they said that this could at times be difficult.

“What is out of sight can in fact hurt us,” said Winters.She said that a great resource for safety information, especially for anyone digging for any reason, is the phone number 811.State law mandates that anyone excavating with the aid of power equipment must call the number prior to digging.If a pipeline is directly touched by a hit or scratch, it can be adversely affected and should be reported.

According to both Stemplewicz and Winters, resources available to the public include the Federal Register, which lists pipelines throughout the commonwealth; the Pipeline Safety Trust, at www.pstrust.org; the Pipeline Safety Coalition; and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

The series of meetings comes from a grant awarded to Charlestown by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.The Technical Assistance Grants for pipeline safety initiatives award a total of $1 million to various communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the grant provides funds for assistance and analyses of locally focused pipeline safety issues, aimed at promoting public participation in official proceedings.

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