The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the explosion on September 14, 2022.
LINCOLN COUNTY, Ky. – You may have passed through a white plastic pipe in the ground, which indicates a gas pipeline.
You’ve definitely seen ads on TV and radio asking you to call 811 before digging, to make sure nothing is on the ground.
But you probably never thought about the possibility of a pipeline rupture.
For people in the Indian Camp neighborhood of North Lincoln County, this became a reality at 1:23 am on August 1, 2019.
“I was in a daze when I woke up…I just didn’t know what was going on,” said Robin Turner, whose front door is less than 1,000 feet from the rupture site.
A 30-inch-diameter pipe, part of the Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline from Texas to New York, ruptured, releasing 101.5 million cubic feet of natural gas. It also created a huge fireball.
“The tremor I thought – at first – was the aftershock of a nuclear explosion,” Turner said. “That’s what my mind was telling me.”
Turner saw flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. The vinyl on the side of her house melted, the paint on her and her husband’s two trucks melted.
The blast killed 58-year-old Lisa Deringer, who was a grandmother and friend to many people in the neighborhood. Six others were taken to hospital. Five homes were destroyed and 14 others wounded.
“Losing one life is too much,” Turner said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its final report on the blast on September 14, 2022.
The independent government regulator found that Enbridge, the pipeline operator, made many mistakes in the run-up to the explosion, with many of these factors contributing to the fatal accident.
Enbridge changed the Texas Eastern Transmission Pipeline from a one-way (going north) to a two-way (flowing in both directions) between 2014-2017. The NTSB found that the company did not fully understand the changes in pressure and temperature that might occur.
Enbridge also downplayed the existence of “tough spots” in the pipeline, according to the report.
A solid point is a point in the pipeline where the metal is more solid than the surrounding metal. This can cause a micro-thermal system to occur, increasing the temperature.
Hard spots are not always a problem, and they are created during the manufacturing stage, before they are laid down in the ground.
According to a NTSB report, Enbridge hired a hard spot testing company in the Lincoln County area in April 2011. They calculated that there were 16 hard spots in a 19-mile segment between compressor sites.
Enbridge also rated the hard point threat on the specific segment that ruptured as 1.53 out of 10, with zero being a hazard.
After the explosion, NTSB directed Enbridge to measure the difficult points again. This time, with eight years of state-of-the-art equipment, the company found 441 hard spots along the same 19 miles.
The third party appointed by Enbridge said this was due to technological advances.
The fatal rupture occurred when two solid points overlapped.
“These companies say an in-line inspection is as good as getting it off the ground and looking at it,” said Bill Karam, director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. “But we still see these lacerations after a direct inspection.”
The Pipeline Safety Trust is a pipeline monitoring group from Washington.
When Enbridge was asked about the current threat to the hard sites, he told the focus team, “We’ve done 180 close drilling and inspections over 2,400 miles and have addressed all of the hard spots.”
The NTSB also used the Lincoln County explosion as an example to call for national change.
The calculated “potential impact radius” for this line was 633 feet, but homes were damaged up to 1,100 feet away, and Lisa Deringer’s body was found 640 feet away.
The NTSB is now asking the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to change its calculations for the PIR radius.
“We’re told we’re in the safety zone. Well, someone needs to change that because it’s wrong. It’s wrong now,” Turner said.
In a statement to FOCUS, Enbridge wrote:
The pipeline accident should not have occurred in the Indian camp community in 2019, and Enbridge deeply regrets the impact it has had on the community, the loss of life suffered by one family, and the injuries sustained by others. It is a stark reminder that maintenance and safe operation of pipelines is essential and must be our top priority. Since the time of the incident, we have engaged with first responders, community members and others affected by the event. We have done our best to effectively address safety and community needs, concerns and questions.
We take recommendations from the NTSB very seriously and in coordination with the agency and PHMSA, our federal regulator, have worked hard to understand the contributing factors to this incident.
We have made huge strides to change our procedures and processes and have conducted extensive inspections in an effort to make our pipes safer than ever before. Specifically, we have completed inline scans of 2,468 miles of our pipeline using a high-end MRI-like device, ensuring the health of our tubes. Where we identified a tricky spot, we dug the tube and put human eyes on the problem. We did 180 digs over 2,400 miles and tackled all the tough spots.
FOCUS also searched for natural gas pipelines closest to Kentuckyana.
The northern end of the Texas East Bus Line passes through Jackson and Jennings County, Indiana.
There is also a pipeline running through Louisville.
The Texas Gas Transmission Line (TGT) begins in Louisiana and ends in Ohio. Through Jefferson County, it passes through Fairdale, Okolona, and Jeffersontown.
27 TGT pipeline incidents have been reported to PHMSA since 2014, but no injuries or deaths have been reported. The total amount of property damage is $5 million.
Specifically in Kentucky, there have been three mechanical leaks or holes. None were near the metro area, with two in County Muhlenberg and one in Glasgow.
None of the three caught gas.
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