As Rome Burns

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And leaks and spills and crumbles and disintegrates. Late last week, as The Lamestream Media looked the other way and refused to report on The State of Emergency declared by the governors of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, a dead Canary was found in an old Shelby County coal mine just south of Birmingham, Alabama.  So many Dead Canaries, so little time. Instead, The Deciders at all the Major Networks (those who determine what The Public gets to see as far as News is concerned) agreed that The Sheeple preferred the incessant inanity about Donald Trump and Hillary Rotten Clinton as opposed to anything mature & substantive like America’s neglected & crumbling Infrastructure.

Perhaps many of you don’t know about the leak in the Colonial Pipeline just South of Birmingham, Alabama. It’s an old, decaying pipeline laid down in 1962 that just so happens to supply nearly 50% of the gasoline to the Southeast and the East Coast. It’s a pretty big deal, and perhaps that’s why the governors declared a State of Emergency, and yet, for some odd reason (maybe it’s not so odd afterall) it’s not News Worthy (versus Sponge Worthy).

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Here’s the story from AL.Com in case you’re not aware, and I imagine most people aren’t (aware) but should be because it’s yet another Canary in the Coal Mine that’s being ignored to our detriment.

Alabama Pipeline Leak: What We Know So Far About the Spill, Gas Shortages and More

by Dennis Pillion

On the morning of Sept. 9, an inspector with the Alabama Surface Mining Commission was performing a routine monthly check of an old coal mine in Shelby County when he noticed “a strong odor of gasoline” as well as a sheen on the surface of one of the retention ponds.

The gasoline he was smelling came from Colonial Pipeline’s Line 1, an underground pipeline three feet in diameter that normally pushes 1.3 million barrels of gasoline per day from refineries in Houston to distribution centers across the Southeast and along the eastern seaboard.

That 36-inch line, built in 1963, has been estimated to supply the east coast of the United States with up to 40 percent of its gasoline supply. Colonial Pipeline initiated a shutdown of Line 1 within 20 minutes of receiving the report about a potential leak.

That section of pipeline remains closed. Eight days later, official estimates climbed to 336,000 gallons of lost gasoline. More than 700 people were working around the clock to dig up the pipe, plug the leak, clean up the old mining property south of Birmingham and restore supply.

With the flow of gasoline interrupted, the governors of six states have declared a state of emergency to allow truck drivers to work longer shifts to head off shortages at the pumps.

Gasoline is now being shipped by alternate routes throughout the southeast. Alternate pipelines are being used, and gasoline is even being shipped by tanker ship from Houston to New York.

Colonial announced Saturday the company will construct a temporary pipeline to bypass the spill site in hopes of restoring gasoline flows more quickly. No timetable was given for completing the bypass line.”

Gas stations in Alabama and Tennessee have reported outages of some or all grades of gasoline, and fears of outages sparked long lines at the pump in Nashville and other locations.

A Minit Man Shell station in West Huntsville had already run out of the least expensive gasoline by Thursday afternoon. And shortages were spreading in North Alabama.

A Raceway gas station on South Broad Street in Scottsboro ran out of gas around 2 p.m. on Friday, and the Wavaho gas station in Lacey’s Springs in Morgan County ran out of gas around 6 p.m. Prices have begun creeping up throughout the region, although Alabama law limits how much gas stations can increase prices during declared states of emergency.

And Gov. Robert Bentley earlier this week had already issued a warning against price gouging. He warned on Thursday “it is unlawful for any person within the State of Alabama to impose unconscionable prices for the sale of any commodity during the period of a declared State of Emergency.”

See link behind title for the rest of the story.

I see the possibility of The Perfect Storm brewing again as Major Urban Areas are ill-prepared to deal with The Fallout from Resource Restrictions. Gas Shortages amidst a Media Blackout equals stranded motorists, gridlock and abandoned vehicles — and, perhaps even the dreaded looting (Snowpocalypse 2014). The Public Relations firms, the Mad Men of this Era, hired by the owners of Colonial Pipeline, are no doubt working overtime to stifle, dismiss and marginalize this story in The Lamestream Media, and you know what — it looks like their efforts are working. Gee, I wonder why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because there is no longer an Independent Media in America. Via consolidation, The Media, Lamestream & Alernative, is pretty much owned by several Conglomerates that in no way represent your interests let alone care about your interests. When you see who owns Colonial Pipeline in a second, you’ll understand. And you should be livid, not that there’s much you and I can do about it at this point. If you’re bright enough to be livid, you’re part of a statistically immaterial minority. Most people, if The Lamestream Media‘s research and assumptions are correct and I believe they are, are more interested in inanity than substantial matters that directly affect their lives and quality of life.

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Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Colonial Pipeline.

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Aside from Koch Industries, the Colonial Pipeline, as you can see, is owned substantially by pension funds, foreign or otherwise (South Korea), and Hedge Funds (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts). What do we expect when Hedge Funds own vital infrastructure assets? As far as I’m concerned, Hedge Funds are as close to Evil as you can get. So close, in fact, they are Evil.

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This gasoline pipeline is over fifty years old. It’s falling apart. It’s disintegrating. This is one leak of many to come in the next two decades, no doubt. And yet, as the following commenter from the linked AL.Com article above asserts, there is no indication that this pipeline is equipped with sensors to indicate a leak or rupture. In this case, Colonial Pipeline had to rely on the kindness, and nosiness (pun intended since he smelled the gasoline), of an Uppity Mine Inspector.

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This story is not even Breaking News for The Lamestream Media but Donald Trump’s questioning The first Black POTUS‘s (or is it The Second Black POTUS‘s since Bill Clinton was the first?) credentials (BHO’s Birth Certificate) eight years ago when BHO was running for POTUS, is. Wow. Just Wow. That is Breaking News these days. Tomorrow, The Donald leaking gas from his ass will be Breaking News, no doubt, as hundreds of thousands stranded motorists in the Southeast listen in to The Donald‘s flatulence updates as they sit in their tiny metal boxes on wheels that have now been rendered useless. How could that be? I think we know how that can be. The News these days, and perhaps it was always this way to some extent, is not News — it’s Propaganda, and Propaganda isn’t concerned with reporting environmental disasters and resource restrictions that reflect negatively on The Shareholders Who Own The World. But it’s Breaking News at this venue. It’s The News that really matters. Because it’s a mirror — one we had better gaze deeply into before it’s too late, and I think it may already be too late, but I’ll keep holding it up and imploring you to gaze until it’s 100% clear to me it’s futility.

Meanwhile, back to the Election 2016 coverage, where, despite what many of you think & believe, both Trump and/or Hillary are perfectly FIT to be POTUS at this point in American History, and, I will add, perfectly appropriate to represent America on The World Stage. The Clown & The Criminal — too bad both can’t “serve” concomitantly. America’s both at this point — an unnerving notion when you consider America is still the most powerful & influential Nation in the World.

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Now, back to The Bombs in NY & NJ and the stabbings in Minnesota. What great timing on those News Events. How convenient. Somehow these events are more News Worthy than the Nightmare unfolding in the Southeast from the pipeline leak. Curious, that. Not really (so curious). Bombings, Stabbings & Shootings pay dividends, quite literally and figuratively, whereas covering the gasoline pipeline leak/spill/rupture does the opposite (or should). One wonders if The Bombings are a purposeful diversion. If not, one day soon, really soon, it will be. Logic dictates it. It’s Common Sense.

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3 thoughts on “As Rome Burns

  1. As I asserted, old infrastructure wears out, and if it’s a gas pipeline, it begins to leak and then rupture. After a bit of research, we can see from the following Athens Banner-Herald article that this pipeline has been leaking and rupturing for quite some time. I’m willing to bet, even though I’m not a Betting Man, that there are similar leaks and ruptures we’ll never know about, past present & future, all along its 5,500 mile expanse. A Money Quote from the article is highlighted below as well.

    The Colonial Pipeline Co. calls itself “America’s energy lifeline,” and it’s hard to argue with the statistics.

    If it’s America’s Energy Lifeline, I’m afraid America’s good & truly fucked.

    Suspicion Flows From Pipeline

    Well woes: Leaks prompt health, property worries

    Every day, Atlanta-based Colonial delivers about 96 million gallons of refined petroleum products – gasoline, diesel fuel and specialized military fuels – to terminals and military bases from Texas to New York along a 5,500-mile network which the company says is the largest of its type in the world. Most of what’s in the pipes – about 20 percent of the nation’s petroleum products – winds up at gas stations after delivery by tanker truck.

    But the Atlanta-based company isn’t necessarily a good neighbor, say some in Madison County, one of several north Georgia counties along the route of the pipeline’s two main trunks, a 36-inch-diameter pipe and a 40-inch-diameter pipe. In this area, the trunk line also runs through Clarke, Jackson, Barrow, Gwinnett and Elbert counties.

    “Who wants to live on a toxic waste site?” asked retired advertising representative Richard Bennett, the area’s most vocal critic of Colonial.

    Bennett, who’s put up signs harshly critical of Colonial on his property, is one of dozens of Madison County landowners whose groundwater has been contaminated with benzene and other toxic substances from a series of spills at the company’s Danielsville Booster Station near U.S. Highway 29 at Colbert Grove Church Road.

    Conley McDaris opens a present at Emory Hospital during before he lost his battle with leukemia. His father wonders if the disease was caused by the nearby Colonial pipeline leaking toxic substances into the groundwater.

    The contamination likely is the result of a series of spills in the area from 1966 to 1979, according to documents the company filed with the state Environmental Protection Division. But the groundwater contamination wasn’t discovered until 1994, when workers at the booster station smelled something funny in the company’s own well, according to EPD records and Grace McDougald, Colonial’s community relations manager.

    Environmental scientists hired by Colonial to do an EPD-ordered evaluation concluded that contamination from old leaks had been confined to the shallow soil layer in the area, but was probably transferred by the company’s own well into the deeper fractured-rock aquifer layer, where it can spread unpredictably and is much harder to clean up.

    Bennett bought 21 acres on the road in 1990, hoping to build a retirement home there next to land his parents already owned. But in 1996, tests run by an environmental company hired by Colonial found that the plume of contamination had reached Bennett’s property.

    Since residents depend on wells for their water in the area, Bennett wasn’t going to be able to build that retirement home. Bennett and his family still own the land, but only because Colonial won’t pay him what he considers a fair price, he says.

    Meanwhile, Colonial has bought out some three dozen property owners and settled at least two lawsuits filed by property owners since 1995, according to records in the office of the Madison County Clerk of Superior Court. Colonial has paid as little as $24,000 – but sometimes much more – to buy out homeowners, area residents say. Details of settlements are secret, however, because of confidentiality agreements the company asks property owners to sign.

    The buyouts began in 1995 and have continued through this year.

    The first was the home of the William Smith family, who began to smell something like gasoline in their well water and asked the Madison County Health Department to test it in June 1995, according to EPD records. The tests revealed benzene concentrations of 315 parts per billion in the water – 63 times the maximum level allowed under federal and state drinking water standards.

    Ruby Looney lives on property close to Colonial Pipeline’s Danielsville Booster Station. Although her water has tested clean, Looney said she would sell out if Colonial offered the right price.

    Benzene is one of the indicator chemicals scientists test for when a petroleum spill is suspected. The toxic chemical is linked to leukemia and other cancers and can suppress the immune system, making people prey to other diseases.

    With such high levels in the well, Colonial immediately moved the family out of the house, paying for temporary shelter. The company also bought the Smiths’ house and land, the first of three dozen Colonial buyouts.

    More hits in residential wells have followed, most recently in 2001 in a well about 0.3 mile from the Colonial booster station. As with the Smith well, the first to test positive for benzene, the Holeman family’s well contamination was not discovered by Colonial’s EPD-enforced monitoring program, but by the family. In September 2001, the Holemans noticed drillers installing monitoring wells on Bennett’s property just across Colbert Grove Church Road. That prompted the Holemans to have their own drinking water tested.

    Colonial has paid for a replacement well for the Holemans, who declined to talk about their situation, citing ongoing negotiations with Colonial.

    As of June, the extent of benzene contamination in the Colbert Grove Church Road area still had not been fully delineated, according to EPD documents, and the agency directed Colonial to install a wider array of monitoring wells after the unexpected contamination was found in the Holeman well and other outlying monitoring wells.

    There are actually two plumes of contaminated water, one in the shallow soil layer and a larger one in the deeper bedrock layer. The deeper plume spreads about 3,200 feet east and west of the booster station and about 2,200 feet north and south, according to a 2003 letter then-EPD head Harold Reheis wrote to Bennett.

    EPD scientists also concluded two years ago that the groundwater cleanup was proceeding too slowly – the plume seems to have stabilized, but the cleanup goal is to shrink it. An expanded “pump and treat” system that removes contamination from groundwater and allows it to dissipate in air began operating in April 2003.

    “We didn’t think there had been enough change the last few years,” said Roger Carter, assistant chief of the EPD’s Geologic Survey Branch.

    Hoping to sell

    More landowners would like to sell, said area resident Ruby Looney, whose home is now the nearest one to the booster station, about 300 yards from her front door. A closer neighbor was bought out by Colonial earlier this year.

    Richard Bennett stands by one of the signs he has posted along Colbert Grove Church Road protesting the Colonial Pipeline Co. and several government agencies. Bennett owns land that he bought on which he planned to retire, but it was later found to be contaminated by a benzene plume.

    Colonial bought part of Looney’s property near the booster station years ago – at a good price, she said. The property contained a stream which Colonial began using to receive water after it had been treated.

    The company was not interested in buying the rest of her property, Looney said. The company has periodically tested her well water, and has told her no contamination has shown up in it.

    A nearby neighbor, Robert Lee Stephenson, said he had also talked with Colonial about buying his land, but they couldn’t agree on a price. Recently retired after 42 years as a University of Georgia groundskeeper, Stephenson has had extensive treatment for multiple cancers recently, but says he does not believe his health problems stem from the pipeline.

    Like Stephenson and many area residents, Looney has had health problems in recent years, but also says she can’t say the petroleum spills have anything to do with them. But she wonders about others who used to live in the area, she says, ticking off a long list of present and former neighbors who have suffered cancers, muscular dystrophy and a variety of other serious problems in recent years.

    A family just across Colbert Grove Church Road has lost two members to leukemia. Mike McDaris said he lost both his father and his son, Conley, to the disease. Conley McDaris died three years ago, at the age of 21, just months after being diagnosed. Colonial has tested the water in that well, too, but said it has no petroleum contamination, Mike McDaris said.

    Bennett, whose brother and father both died young with heart problems, thinks benzene exposure contributed to their early deaths. State officials say it is unlikely area residents have been exposed to high levels of benzene and other toxins since the contamination was discovered in 1994. No connection between benzene and heart problems has been definitively shown.

    But since the spills in the area date back nearly 40 years, it’s impossible to say what residents may have been exposed to before 1994, Carter said.

    The possibility of contamination is still an ever-present worry, said Looney. While no contamination has shown up in the periodic tests Colonial does of her well water, and she’s seen nothing in her water to indicate anything wrong, she’s asked Colonial for more tests after a well-drilling company said there was “something oily” in her well water, she said. Looney had called the well-drilling company in the spring about another problem she thinks may be related to the spills: low water levels in her well.

    Ivy Springs Road used to lead to about three dozen properties that housed more than 30 families. Colonial Pipeline bought the land after a leak contaminated groundwater.

    Looney wonders if this spring’s low water levels were related to the company’s cleanup of the contaminated water by pumping up to 75,000 gallons a day of water out of the ground, allowing contaminants to disperse into the air, then returning the water to a nearby stream. The 75,000 gallons are about double the water being pumped and cleaned before 2002, when EPD officials ordered Colonial to step up its efforts there.

    But when Colonial’s treatment wells operate, local underground water levels can drop by about 10 feet, according to documents filed by the company with the EPD.

    “When you run out of water, you really do think about it,” Looney said.

    Some homeowners on the other side of Colbert Grove Church Road are also worried about low water levels in their wells, said another Colbert Grove Church Road homeowner, Angela Huffstetler.

    EPD’s Carter says it’s possible Colonial’s pumping could affect some nearby wells, but each case would have to be evaluated.

    Within a year or so, area residents will have access to a city waterline and won’t have to worry about the benzene plume invading their wells, or wells playing out in dry years – but that’s been controversial, too.

    Colonial, which paid about $128,000 in Madison County taxes last year, has been quietly negotiating with Madison County officials over the waterline since at least 2002. Earlier this year, company officials met with EPD official Jim Guentert to discuss the issue, according to EPD records. They asked Guentert if the company might reduce the level of monitoring and remediation, or cleanup, if the line were run. EPD would consider wells as still operational unless they were plugged and abandoned, Guentert told them.

    Colonial’s McDougald says the question only covered monitoring, not cleanup.

    Since then, Colonial has reached an agreement with the Madison County Industrial Development and Building Authority to pay about $950,000 toward a 12-mile, $1.7 million water main linking water systems in Danielsville, Colbert and Madico Park, an industrial park the authority owns. The line will run along Colbert Grove Church Road. Madison County Commission Chairman Wesley Nash and other officials say it’s a win-win situation for the county, because Colonial will be paying more than half the cost of a waterline the county needed anyway to connect the two cities and the industrial park so each would have backup water supplies.

    County Commissioner Bruce Scogin, whose district includes the Colbert Grove Church Road area, agrees the waterline is a good thing but says county officials should have asked for much more from Colonial, both in money and help for residents affected by the spill.

    “I see Colonial coming out of this actually making a pile of money” in tax write-offs and, possibly, land sales, Scogin said.

    Nash says he sympathizes with the plight of Colbert Grove Church Road residents, but says it’s not part of county government’s role to investigate environmental contamination. He concedes Colonial could wind up profiting from the deal, however.

    Bennett contends that because Colonial caused the problems that have made the wells unusable, the company should be paying the residents’ water bills.

    Bennett may get some help for one of the problems he attributes to Colonial’s spills.

    Prices paid by Colonial to settle residents’ claims, in and out of court, have artificially elevated property taxes in the area, when in fact it’s virtually impossible to sell the land, he contends.

    John Bellew, chairman of Madison County’s Board of Assessors – and Nash’s opponent for the commission chairmanship in the November election – says he believes Bennett is right.

    Bennett will get a hearing before the board, but Bellew said he doesn’t know if there’s a legal way to remedy a request for property tax relief, since property valuations must be based on the sale prices of comparable property.

    Bennett says he feels betrayed by just about everyone involved – not just Colonial, but by the county commission for not standing up for the residents and demanding more of Colonial, and by the state Environmental Protection Division for not conducting a health investigation and not pushing Colonial harder to clean the water up and extend monitoring.

    McDougald, Colonial’s community relations manager, has informally surveyed area residents, and says no one has told her they believe they have health problems related to the contamination.

    And evaluating whether any health problems are related to exposure to benzene or other toxins would be difficult at best, said EPD toxicologist Randy Manning. For the most part, toxins that have shown up in area drinking wells have been at low levels, and each well was removed from service immediately after contamination was discovered.

    There’s no way to know what contaminant levels were before 1994, he said.

    Colonial’s McDougald says the company has worked hard to make sure residents were not being exposed to the spilled petroleum.

    “I don’t know how we could have been any more aggressive,” she said. “Anytime anybody has called us, we’ve gone out and tested (well water for contaminants). … We have responded to every inquiry we have had, we have sent somebody out to meet with anybody who has asked, and will continue to do so.”

    “We regret that we had any kind of release,” she said, but noted that the people who moved from the area chose to move.

    “Nobody was forced to move from out there,” she said.

    For those who stayed, the company has installed well filters at residents’ request, even when there was no contamination, and has supplied bottled water and even dug new wells when requested, she pointed out.

    And the planned waterline will help not just Colbert Grove Church Road but all of Madison County, she noted.

    “We have actively sought to remedy the situation with individuals as well as the community,” she said.

    Former Colbert Grove Church Road resident Cathy Ragsdale said her main regret is simply the loss of the homestead she and her family had built up and cared for over a dozen years – the place where they raised their family.

    After benzene showed up in their next-door neighbor’s well, she and her husband sold out to Colonial in 2002 rather than waiting to see if the benzene plume would reach their own well. Ragsdale said they were satisfied with what they got for their house and land, though a confidentiality agreement prevents them from discussing details of the settlement, she said.

    “As far as peace of mind, that was the best thing we ever did. We’re both happier,” she said. “The unknown is what has bothered everybody in the area. You don’t know anything. You don’t know if everything is clear, you don’t know if we would be bought or, if our water would be contaminated or our health is contaminated. That unknown is what will keep you up in the middle of the night.”

    But the process did not leave her with happy memories.

    “There’s no way I’d ever live there again. I don’t even go down that road,” she said. “I planted flowers. I planted trees. That was my home, and it was taken from me.”

    After reading this blog post and the commentary to it, if you’re interested in investing in the company or working for it, the link to its website follows. Good Luck with that.

    Colonial Pipeline Company

  2. Interesting. One takeaway from The Wall Street Journal article that follows is that Colonial Pipeline‘s recalcitrant stance related to capacity expansion is possibly the result of throttling supply to increase prices and thus profits. Profits, by the way, that ultimately are paid by the consumer. It’s effectively and for intents & purposes a tax when you consider expanding capacity would remedy the matter. Although, maybe they should replace the old, decaying pipeline with a new one considering what we now know and should have always known logically and intuitively. Or, we can dial our consumption back and start contracting into more decentralized, localized economies where more is made locally by hand and there is less need for the automobile. I think the latter is the ideal choice, but since when is the ideal choice ever made?

    Colonial Pipeline Comes Under Fire

    Companies say the lack of pipeline space between Texas and New Jersey is raising fuel costs

    By NICOLE FRIEDMAN

    Updated March 9, 2016 2:30 p.m. ET

    A lack of pipeline space between the Gulf Coast and East Coast is raising the cost of fuel, companies told government regulators Wednesday.

    Colonial Pipeline Co.’s unwillingness to expand its pipelines that run between Texas and New Jersey has forced traders to buy gasoline, jet fuel and other products elsewhere at higher costs, executives and lawyers told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at a meeting in Washington, D.C.

    FERC held the meeting to discuss Colonial’s proposal to change the rules on its pipeline. Colonial wants to restrict traders from buying and selling the right to ship on the pipeline and to change the way that pipeline space is allocated to companies.

    More than 20 companies including large airlines, refiners and gas-station operators have filed comments or asked FERC for permission to intervene regarding the new rules.

    A number of large companies that ship on the pipeline say the current system raises their fuel costs.

    Colonial’s 5,500-mile pipeline system, an essential energy transportation artery to the Northeast of the U.S., has been full since 2012. Because the pipeline is full, some longtime shippers don’t get as much space to ship fuel as they need.

    Marathon Petroleum Corp., the nation’s fourth-largest refiner, and American Airlines Inc. said at the meeting they have to buy fuel on the East Coast because they cannot ship enough fuel on the pipeline.

    “It incurs an additional cost to us and to our customers,” said Andy Melton, who spoke on behalf of Marathon.

    Gas-station operators Sunoco Inc. and Murphy USA Inc. told the commission they pay other companies for additional pipeline space.

    Greg Downum of Murphy said that some traders enter the lottery for space on Colonial Pipeline solely to resell that space to companies like his. “We believe there are some small shippers out there, and we’ve transacted with them, who have no intention at all of ever possessing a barrel,” he said.

    Two individuals and Public Citizen Inc., a consumer advocacy group, also submitted comments with FERC, saying the current system raises consumer costs.

    Companies that oppose the new rules argue the changes would discriminate against those that aren’t already longtime Colonial shippers.

    Much of the discussion revolved around why Colonial has no plans to expand the pipeline.

    “The only solution to this problem is to create new capacity,” said Naill Alnatour, director of fuel supply and trading at Costco Wholesale Corp., which opposes Colonial’s proposed new rules.

    Colonial representatives said the company is looking at an expansion but is still evaluating the cost, future demand and regulatory hurdles.

    The pipeline is owned by Koch Industries Inc., South Korea’s National Pension Service, KKR & Co., a Quebec pension fund, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and IFM Investors. The company reported net income of $87.3 million to FERC in the third quarter of 2015, up 2.2% from the prior year.

  3. Apparently, spills are happening all the time but rarely are they covered like Terrorist Events even though they affect the quality of our lives to a much greater extent. Funny, that. Or maybe not so funny. I made the following comment over at Clusterfuck Nation because I’m exasperated with The Lamestream Media and the Toxic Effluent it spills daily that poisons our minds, our psyches and our potential.

    Here’s another article from Greenville Online about all the spills just in South Carolina, known & unknown, related to the Colonial Pipeline. Proper media coverage of this event could have resulted in a National Discussion about Our Way of Life and what needs to be done to save & protect our environment, and specifically in the case of Colonial Pipeline and others of its ilk, our precious & fragile life-giving Watersheds.

    For example, many Millennials have embraced Uber to the point it now appears to be the darling of Vulture Venture Capitalists even though it’s a horrible Business Model in every respect imaginable, but most especially and specifically as it relates to this gas spill. Uber enables the furtherance of our diseased Car Culture and its attendant wasteful Suburban Sprawl. It’s exactly the wrong message to a New Generation of Consumers. The emphasis should be on Public Transportation which is much more efficient from a resource standpoint.

    Take note of the bolded part of the article below. It’s one thing for a company to make claims, but it’s another thing entirely to prove those claims. If that Robotic Pipeline Inspector was effective, this most recent rupture south of Birmingham, Alabama would have been averted. Also note that the article mentions that management at the company was changed after the massive 1996 spill in South Carolina but not necessarily ownership. My opinion? They hired a Public Relations Company after the 1996 spill to handle these matters more effectively and paint the company in a positive light. In fact, this article is an example of the effectiveness of the Public Relations Strategy. If Colonial Pipeline Company was everything it says it is now in the article, the spill in Shelby County, Alabama would not have happened. Public Relations Pricks are today’s Mad Men. They’re Censors & they’re Tyrants. They decide what you should know and not know, and what they want you to know is NOTHING, or better yet, only Happy Thoughts. This dork agrees, apparently, since my blog posts fit his description of “Negative Journalism.” WHAT THE FUCK EVER, DUDE!! But hey, he must be right — he received five more “LIKES” than me, so that means he wins and that means he’s right. FYI, I sleep just fine at night, ASSHOLE, and, unlike most of you, I’m not medicated into a Stepford Wife Trance.

    20 Years After Colonial Pipeline Disaster, Spills Continue

    ON JUNE 27, 1996, DONNIE TOLLISON LEFT HIS 50 HEAD OF CATTLE GRAZING IN AND NEAR THE REEDY RIVER AND HIS 25-30 GOATS IN A HAYFIELD AND LEFT FOR WORK. ABOUT 10:30 THAT MORNING, HE GOT A CALL. HE WAS NEEDED AT HOME.

    Nathaniel Cary, ncary@greenvillenews.com

    On June 27, 1996, Donnie Tollison left his 50 head of cattle grazing in and near the Reedy River and his 25-30 goats in a hayfield and left for work. About 10:30 that morning, he got a call. He was needed at home.

    When he arrived, giant trucks were parked in his freshly-graded gravel driveway. Workers scrambled down the banks of the river next to his rural home on McKittrick Bridge Road in Fountain Inn, placing large yellow booms in the water below a bridge.

    Tollison tried to get his cows out of the river. Tried to round up his goats. And tried to get the trucks to get out of his driveway. It was chaos and he didn’t even know what was going on.

    Then, standing on a bridge over the Reedy, he heard the wave coming before he saw it sweep around a bend in the river. The neon green rush of toxic diesel fuel stood nearly a foot high and wiped out anything in its path, bowling over the booms in the water and continuing downstream for miles.

    Neighbors Durant Ashmore, left, and Donnie Tollison,

    That was how Tollison was introduced to the largest pipeline spill in South Carolina history. The night before, a 36-inch petroleum pipeline operated by Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Company ruptured just above State 418 in Fountain Inn at a section of pipe the company knew to be weak, spilling nearly 1 million gallons of fuel into the river.

    Standing there, watching the wave wash down the river next to property Tollison’s family had owned for a century, Donnie Tollison said it made him sick.

    “Fish were trying to jump out of that mess,” Tollison said as he recalled the event. “Wood ducks were covered. And the stench would just burn your skin.”

    The headline in the next day’s edition of The Greenville News read “Now it’s called the river of death.”

    Before it was over, the spill destroyed vegetation, killed wildlife and 35,000 fish along 23 miles of the Reedy River through Greenville and Laurens counties in one of the state’s largest environmental disasters. The company pleaded guilty to criminal negligence and paid $13 million in settlements to South Carolina and landowners and another $41 million in federal Clean Water Act fines.

    “Fish were trying to jump out of that mess. Wood ducks were covered. And the stench would just burn your skin.”

    That spill was the biggest catalyst that changed the entire company, said Steve Baker, Colonial Pipeline spokesman. New management took over and a renewed emphasis on safety and pipeline integrity began and continues today, Baker said.

    “Even today we still kind of point back to that as the day that things changed,” Baker said.

    Twenty years later, evidence of the spill has all but disappeared. It’s silent on the Reedy River save for the occasional bullfrog or bird call and the gentle ripple of water.

    Durant Ashmore, who owns a quarter-mile of riverfront and witnessed the wave of diesel destroy the river that morning, pointed recently to deer tracks along the river’s edge and depressions made by turtles, which were swimming in the knee-high water. Carp swim upriver in mid-May to spawn in the same place where yellow booms once caught diesel and pumped it into waiting trucks.

    The river has recovered remarkably well, said Ashmore, a landscape designer who writes a weekly column for The Tribune-Times, which is owned by The News.

    But a question lingers in his mind to this day: is it good or bad to live along the Reedy River?

    “Is it the sewer of Greenville or is it the future of Greenville?” he said.

    Ashmore loves the river, he said, “but if we’re going to have to experience diesel fuel and pollution…” he said, trailing off as he stared at the water.

    Could it happen again?

    In the 20 years since the Colonial Pipeline spill, pipelines have been involved in 40 incidents with major damages or spills in South Carolina. The vast majority of those incidents have happened in the Upstate, where two major petroleum pipelines – Colonial Pipeline and Plantation Pipeline – cut through the state.

    Those incidents have spilled more than 470,000 gallons of petroleum, gas or hazardous material in the state in the last 20 years, according to data the companies self-report to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

    Colonial Pipeline has reported 19 incidents resulting in spills in the time since its major Reedy River spill, some with cleanup costs exceeding $1 million.

    All but three of Colonial’s spills since the Reedy have occurred on Colonial-owned facilities. Two of those that happened on publicly-owned land occurred in 1997 and one, spilling 362 gallons in Simpsonville, happened last year, Baker said.

    “Even one gallon is one gallon too many,” Baker said. “But to put that in perspective, we transport more than 105 million gallons on our system every day.”

    Some spills have dumped as little as 8 gallons, while others – including two incidents each involving Colonial and Plantation within the last four years – have spilled tens of thousands of gallons.

    One of those spills – reported in Dec. 2014 in the town of Belton by Plantation – stands out.

    It’s believed to be the second largest spill in state history behind only the Colonial Pipeline disaster, and it’s showing signs of its environmental costs even as crews are still working to clean it up.

    The Plantation Pipeline was likely leaking well before residents began to notice a gasoline odor and vegetation turning brown on former farmland in Anderson County, said Gary Poliakoff, a Spartanburg-based attorney who is now representing the landowners, Scott and Eric Lewis, in a lawsuit against the pipeline company’s owner Kinder Morgan.

    The line had been installed in 1968 and repaired in 1991 after a dent was discovered. The company used a metal sleeve – “kind of a big steel Band-Aid,” Poliakoff said – to fit over the dent and reburied the line. It was not inspected again until Dec. 8, 2014 when the spill was discovered, he said.

    In all, 369,600 gallons of toxic fuel seeped into the ground. In the year-and-a-half since the line ruptured, the company has recovered 209,000 gallons, according to a report obtained by The Greenville News filed by the company’s hired engineers, CH2M filed to DHEC this month.

    In that report, the company said it has been unable to recover any more gasoline since early 2016. That means more than 160,000 gallons of gasoline has not been recovered. Some of that gasoline has seeped into groundwater and surface water along Brown’s Creek, which runs through the property and is a tributary to Broadway Creek and eventually Broadway Lake and the Savannah River.

    Surface water tests have shown benzene, a highly toxic chemical in gasoline that’s linked to cancer, at levels well above the EPA’s enforceable regulation, according to the report.

    Communications between DHEC staff and project engineers also detail a sheen of gasoline that has continued to show up in a fishing pond along Brown’s Creek as recently as March.

    Melissa Ruiz, a spokeswoman with Kinder Morgan, said the company has been working closely with DHEC to fully remediate the site.

    “All product on the surface has been removed, and we are now focused on removing or destroying the residuals in the groundwater,” Ruiz said. “We will continue to work closely with SC DHEC on our overall site corrective action plan until the site is fully remediated to the satisfaction of the state.”

    The affected line has been repaired and is back in service and the company will monitor and inspect the system regularly, she said.

    Ruiz said that Kinder Morgan is committed to the improving the integrity of its system and invests millions each year into maintenance programs to operate safely. The company outperforms the industry average in numbers of incidents and ruptures, according to figures the company displays on its website.

    Plantation has been involved in two other recent incidents in its Upstate pipeline; an equipment failure in Spartanburg in 2012 and a line rupture at its Belton plant in May 2014 that sent a geyser of gasoline 150 feet into the air and spilled more than 25,500 gallons of gasoline, according to PHMSA and the filed lawsuit.

    “Our goal,” Ruiz said, “is zero incidents, as even one incident is too many.”

    So far, the company had reported cleanup costs to PHMSA of nearly $3.9 million for the Belton spill.

    Nearly 100 monitoring wells dot the landscape of the Belton property, Poliakoff said. Before the spill, the property had been listed for sale, but the owners have received no interest since then, he said.

    The case is in discovery and could go to trial in 2017, he said.

    That spill, and others that dot the timeline over the last 20 years, show that pipelines are under-policed for maintenance, environmental impact and oversight, said Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

    Effects of Colonial spill

    Pipelines continue to pose risks to water resources, air and safety, and still lack the proper amount of government oversight, Holleman said.

    “That has not been fixed since the Colonial Pipeline spill,” he said.

    But ever since that spill, Colonial has put its own emphasis on safety and upgrades, and its safety record in South Carolina since then reflects those changes, he said. All of its incidents involving spills in the 20 years since the Reedy spill have totaled just over 70,000 gallons and 60,000 gallons of that was recovered.

    The company flies over every line every two weeks to inspect for discolored vegetation or construction equipment on its right of way and it uses a new robotic technology called a smartpig that glides through the lines and uses sensors to measure line thickness and any dents in the line. The company then prioritizes those problem areas and digs up the lines to inspect and repair them, Baker said.

    The company has also invested in training and coordination with first responders in case of a major incident, Baker said.

    In Spartanburg County, where Colonial has a tank farm in Croft, the company has ramped up its communication and provided training on site to first responders, said Doug Bryson, the county’s emergency management coordinator.

    Bryson said he’s noticed Colonial’s involvement improving recently. The company has provided him with an online portal that shows the location of each of its lines in case of an emergency and it invested several hundred thousand dollars to upgrade the water supply at its terminal to provide more water pressure to fight a possible gasoline fire, he said.

    “That came as a result of training with the fire department in previous years,” Bryson said.

    While pipeline critics point to the hundreds of pipeline incidents that occur each year along the nation’s 2.5 million miles of pipeline, gas and oil companies point out that pipelines are the safest way to transport petroleum, much safer than train or tractor trailer transport, and the country has an insatiable appetite for gasoline.

    Colonial’s current pipeline is full and the company has received interest from customers to build another pipeline and is exploring its options, Baker said. He declined to say where the company was looking to build but said recent laws passed in Georgia and South Carolina that put a moratorium on pipelines using eminent domain to purchase pipeline right-of-way will be a complication.

    There was some good that came from the Colonial Pipeline spill, Holleman said.

    A $6.5 million settlement agreed to in 1998 between the company and South Carolina led to more protection of land along the Reedy River. Of that, $5.3 million was used to purchase land, including land for a wildlife management area in Laurens and 95 acres that would become Cedar Falls Park in southern Greenville County. Another $200,000 went to buy Lake Conestee on the Reedy River south of Greenville, which would become the Lake Conestee Nature Park.

    Some went to water quality and aquatic life monitoring, a Clemson education program and to build a kayak put-in in Laurens County. And $110,000 went to buy wood duck boxes, which Ashmore said were installed but soon washed away during flooding.

    “There’s been huge good that’s come out of the settlement,” said Dave Hargett, who was involved throughout the cleanup process and is now director of the Lake Conestee Foundation.

    The river itself has recovered remarkably, he said.

    “It’s probably in as good condition now as it was before (the spill) and probably better in some regards,” he said.

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