Colonial Pipeline no stranger to headlines with aging pipes, hefty fines for multiple spills

Photo depicting Sept. 9 leak in rural Shelby County. Courtesy Colonial Pipeline.
Photo depicting Sept. 9 leak in rural Shelby County. Courtesy Colonial Pipeline.

SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — This isn’t the first time Colonial Pipeline has been in the headlines.

Prior to the Oct. 31 explosion that killed one and injured five contract crew members working to excavate the main gasoline line no. 1, there was the leak in Shelby County that totaled more than 252,000 gallons of spilled gasoline that was discovered Sept. 9 and took 12 days to bypass and restore function to that main line.

The Alpharetta, Ga. based company operates more than 5,500 miles of pipeline. Some of the pipes are more than 50 years old. So, of course wear and tear happens. But, with the most recent fatality, CBS 42 News took a closer look at the reports from the federal government, highlighting unsafe conditions and millions of dollars in fines.

In 2015, in Centreville, Virginia, a report shows 4,000 gallons of gas leaked due to a crack in the pipe. This pipe was more than 50 years old, which is the same age as the pipe that leaked in Shelby County.

And in 2009, the federal government ordered more than $18,000 in civil penalties for a defective valve in Pasadena, Texas. In 2006, a tank overflowed in Virginia.

Also of note, in 2003, Colonial Pipeline paid out the largest civil penalty in EPA history. More than $60 million in fines and upgrades in relation to seven spills.

Monday’s explosion was indirectly related to the Sept. leak, in that the crews were excavating the affected line to prepare for a final repair related to the leak when their track hoe struck the line and the gasoline ignited.

The majority of the other reports are accidental and don’t account much for human error like near misses, or line strikes like we saw in the most recent explosion. That is something CBS42 News will continue to look into.

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