How to respond if you damage a pipeline
If you put a scratch, dent, or gouge in a pipeline, that still counts as damage – even if there is no product leaking. Small damages still must be reported because if you have damaged the protective coating on a pipeline, that scratch will become a leak at some point in the future. It is 100 percent guaranteed. The protective coating is what keeps the pipeline from rusting. Contact 811 and the facility operator to report the damage so it can be fixed before it becomes a serious, and potentially deadly, problem.
If there is product escaping, you must contact 911, 811, and the operator. Do not attempt to stop the flow of gas. Do not clamp, bend, crimp, or block the leaking pipeline. Natural gas is extremely flammable and can be set off by as little as a static spark. Let the operator shut down the leak with the proper equipment.
Remember to document (photos, notes, etc.) pre-dig and after the damage. If you’re involved in a damage, whether it was your fault or not, you will receive a letter from the IURC asking you to explain what happened. The operator and the excavator should both respond so that the Pipeline Safety Division can complete its investigation in a timely manner. Responding with good information only helps you, so remember to document pre and post digging.
How would you know where a pipeline is?
Pipeline markers are important for the safety of the general public and provide emergency responders with critical information. Most pipelines are underground, where they are more protected from the elements and minimize interference with surface uses. Even so, pipeline rights-of-way are clearly identified by pipeline markers along pipeline routes that identify the approximate – NOT EXACT – location of the pipeline. Every pipeline marker contains information identifying the company that operates the pipeline, the product transported, and a phone number that should be called in the event of an emergency. Markers do not indicated pipeline burial depth, which will vary. Markers are typically seen where a pipeline intersects a street, highway or railway. For any person to willfully deface, damage, remove or destroy any pipeline marker is a federal crime.
- Pipeline Marker – This marker is the most commonly seen. It contains operator information, type of product and an emergency contact number.
- Aerial Marker – These skyward facing markers are used by patrol plans that monitor pipeline activity.
- Casing Vent Marker – This marker indicates that a pipeline (protected by a steel outer casing) passes beneath a nearby roadway, rail line or other crossing.
What not to do in the event a leak were to occur?
How would you recognize a pipeline leak?
Although pipeline leaks are rare, knowing how to recognize and respond to a possible leak is a key component in pipeline safety. Trust your sense. You may recognize a pipeline leak by:
What do the pipeline companies do in the event a leak was to occur?
In order to prepare for the event of a leak, pipeline companies regularly communicate, plan and train with local emergency personnel such as fire and police departments. Some pipeline companies are also implementing local safety awareness programs in order to educate excavators and emergency responders of the potential hazards of underground utilities. Upon the notification of an incident or leak, either by the pipeline company’s internal control center or by phone, the pipeline operator will immediately dispatch trained personnel to assist public safety officials in their response to the emergency. Pipeline operators and emergency responders are trained to protect life, property and their facilities in the case of an emergency. Pipeline operators will also take steps to minimize the amount of product that leaks out and to isolate the pipeline emergency.
Damage to underground facility
An excavator shall, as soon as practical, notify the operator when any damage occurs to an underground facility as a result of an excavation. The notice shall include the type of facility damaged and the extent of the damage. If damage occurs, an excavator shall refrain from backfilling in the immediate area of the underground facilities until the damage has been investigated by the operator, unless the operator authorizes otherwise. If the damage results in an emergency, the excavator shall take all reasonable actions to alleviate the emergency including, but not limited to, the evacuation of the affected area. The excavator shall leave all equipment situated where the equipment was at the time the emergency was created and immediately contact the operator and appropriate authorities and necessary emergency response agencies.
Transmission pipeline mapping
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety has developed the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) to provide information about pipeline operators and their pipelines. The NPMS web site is searchable by zip code or by county and state, and can display a county map that is printable. For a list of pipeline operators with pipelines in your area and their contact information, go to the National Pipeline Mapping System website.
How you can help?
While accidents pertaining to pipelines and pipeline facilities are very rare, awareness of the location of the pipeline, the potential hazards, and what to do if a leak does occur can help minimize the number of accidents that do occur. A leading cause of pipeline incidents is third – party excavation damage. Pipeline operators are responsible for the safety and security of their respective pipelines. To help maintain the integrity of pipelines and their rights-of-way, it is essential that pipeline and facility neighbors protect against unauthorized excavations or other destructive activities. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Become familiar with the pipelines and pipeline facilities in the area (marker signs, fence signs at gated entrances, etc.)
- Record the operator name, contact information and any pipeline information from nearby marker / facility signs and keep in a permanent location near the telephone.
- Be aware of any unusual or suspicious activities or unauthorized excavations taking place within or near the pipeline right-of-way or pipeline facility; report any such activities to the pipeline operator and the local law enforcement.