"Self-regulation" puts investors and children at risk: Pipeline construction transforms neighborhood into war zone

Originally posted 2009-06-07 02:38:13 -0400, bumped by carol

In Texas, local ordinance do not apply to pipelines. Current laws in Texas do not stipulate how far a pipeline must be from a house or structure. The industry lobbies consistently for "self-regulation" stating that it is better for the people because "too much regulation" will be too "costly." The Driver Pipeline (subcontractor) construction site in the ONCOR /LUMINANT 20' electrical easement through East Arlington is a blantant example of the INDUSTRY failing to self-regulate.

Self-regulation infers responsible practices. It infers being a good neighbor. It confers responsibility to the industry to respect the health and safety of neighbors adjacent to the pipeline.

A quiet residential street in East Arlington was transformed almost overnight two months ago into what looks like a war zone. Coring began by Driver Pipeline to install DFW Midstream's pipeline underneath ONCOR's 30 foot steel towers holding high-voltage electrical electrical lines. AT&T wires strung on telephone poles also run through this existing 20' wide utility easement. The operation to install the steel natural gas pipeline is similar to a gas well drilling operation in that they use horizontial drilling techniques to core down underneath the ground and drill holes underneath streets and other obstacles rather than trenching from the top of the ground. It was reported earlier this year in a FW Star-Telegram report that this pipeline installation is 75% coring and 25% trenching.

In East Arlington, on city property at New York Avenue, where no houses are nearby, they used a site at a reasonable distance from the recreation center building, steel electrical tower and at a reasonable distance from the tennis courts for their coring operation. There are no homes within several hundred feet at that site, but they installed sound-baffling anyway. The site is contained to minimize risk to children or other curious people. At Daniel Dr., a few blocks away, where houses are only 40' apart, they didn't bother to install sound-baffling. They used the 40' strip of land between Mr. Eddie Crosswhite's house and Mr. Zapatha's house as a coring (drilling) site and filled it with equipment used on the NY site. Because the NY Ave site is on City Property, City of Arlington Code Enforcement was able to say: "If you don't abide by our ordinances, you can't use our property." On Daniel Dr., it is not on city property. State Law gives oversight of pipelines to the Railroad Commission. The Railroad Commission, according Jodie Kerl of the Dallas office of the Texas Railroad Commission (on May 27th), had not inspected the DFW Midstreams Pipeline construction site in Arlington on Daniel Drive during the two months of industrial construction in the once tranquil neighborhood on Daniel Drive.

Despite numerous calls to Ms. Kerl, and to the Texas Railroad Commission's Austin office this week, on Wednesday we still had not had received a response to our inquiry if they have inspected it in the past 7 days. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, an Arlington resident, is "traveling this week." His office says they do not expect him to be in Arlington. They do not know if he is aware of the problems at the Daniel Dr. DFW Midstreams /ONCOR Electric construction site. On Thursday, Ms. Kerl phoned and informed us that she had been to the Davis Dr. site and "we will be investigating your complaint." The situation at that site has deteroriated since that call.

This job site, in our opinion, is a black-eye to the industry which lobbies for "self-regulation." Both DFW Midstream Pipeline and ONCOR, owner of the utility easement, are under the same parent company - Texas Energy Futures Corp.

Problems we see at the Daniel Drive Site:

  1. Insufficient prior notification for landowners before commencement of construction. The Pipeline Company claims they sent earlier notice than the residents report they got.

  2. Too much equipment in too small a space.

  3. Use of residential neighborhood as storage lot for heavy-duty construction equipment used on other job sites (i.e. a City of Arlington park where city code enforcement stipulated requirements that would probably have applied to the Daniel Dr. site if State law allowed City Codes to apply to pipeline construction inside city limits).

  4. Encroachment into yards and onto land adjacent to right-of-way without homeowner's permission or payment.
  5. Failure to properly fence job site from adjacent homes for safety of children. One family adjacent to the job site has several small children. There is a deep pit where they are coring, filled with drilling chemicals, saltwater, slime, and sludge brought up from the coring operation. If a child gets outside for a minute and wanders 5' outside their backyard line into that right-of-way easement, they will fall into a deep hole filled with quick-sand like drilling sludge. There is no barrier between this family's yard and the drill site except for a 2' wide nylon orange banner!
  6. Noise.

  7. Storage of equipment on resident's property. Harriet Irby was visiting Mr. Eddie Crosswhite last weekend while he answered a call from a pipeline official. He put the call on speakerphone. Ms. Irby videotaped stacks of pallets and other equipment still on Mr. Crosswhites property and caught the voice of the offical telling Mr. Crosswhite that everything had been moved off of his land!

  8. No protection of homes from mud and sludge coming up from the well during coring operations. Adjacent homes (and automobiles parked) by the drill/coring site are coated with mud and sludge from the pipeline construction.

  9. Families cannot stand in their yards and children cannot play in their yards without being splattered with debris and mud and sludge coming from the drilling.
    10. Fumes and Odors. Too much diesel equipment in too small a space creates fumes and odors which prohibit enjoyment of adjacent homes and backyards.

  10. Endangerment to health of fragile individuals. Studies show that children subjected to diesel are at risk. Mr. Crosswhite, who lives adjacent to this site, is a cancer patient. He recently recuperated enough to return to work full-time. If he were home all week, subject to continual exposure to this job site, he would probably be too exposed to the contaminants. If he has to undergo chemotheraphy while this construction continues, he will not be able to live in his house because of the fumes. The stress and fumes and contaminants he inhales after he returns home and on weekends inhibits his ability to fight off the cancer and to enjoy the precious time he has.

  11. Vibrations from the coring operation and heavy equipment have caused damage to adjacent homes. Doors and windows do not close properly, homes and automobiles are coated with drilling mud and sludge, fences have been damaged and toxic petroleum residue, coring sludge, and other chemicals have spilled into the yards.

  12. This pipeline is to transmit wet unodorized gas for Carrizo Oil. State law does not require that the gas be odorized and dehydrated at the wellhead. Just because state law doesn't require something, doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done. It also doesn't mean that the gas and pipeline companies CAN'T DO IT. For the safety of residents along this pipeline and for the safety of school children in Blanton Elementary School, Jones Elementary and S. Davis Elementary School which are adjacent to this pipeline we urge Carrizo Oil, DFW Midstream Pipeline, ONCOR and their parent companies TO ODORIZE THE GAS AT THE WELLHEAD and TO DEHYDRATE THE GAS AT THE WELLHEAD so that it will be less corrosive and safer to tranmit to the refinery.

Following posting of this content Wednesday on THE ARLINGTON TEXAN, Midstreams Pipeline president, Brett Wiss phoned and said: "Even though we aren't required to odorize natural gas, in consideration for the community we intend to add odor at the pad site." He continued: "As you know, methane has no odor, so we intend to do this in consideration for the neighborhood. The gas will undergo a partial dehydration at the pad site before it passes through the pipeline on Daniel Dr." he continued. "When it gets a few miles east of there, it will be deyhdrated concurrent with compression before being transmitted to the refinery."

In that same conversation, he mentioned that sound-baffling had been installed at the Daniel Dr. worksite. Asked, "Since last night?" He responded: "Isn't it there?"

He was told: "I don't think so." Checking with landowners, and verified by a DFW Regional Concerned Citizen staffer, we learned that some plywood has been erected, without blanketing for sound- abatement on part of one side of the worksite. None was on the other side. Plywood helped to keep some of the mud off of part of one of the homes, but did little for sound-abatement.

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC

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