Riverkeeper to Colonial Pipeline: We can’t keep playing Russian Roulette with lives, drinking water

Still image captured from streamed footage of the Shelby County Colonial pipeline explosion by CBS42 meteorologist Nate Harrington from a helicopter.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama Riverkeepers are calling for accountability and a review of the integrity of the aging Colonial Pipeline route that runs through Alabama in a joint statement from the four different organizations that are all part of the Waterkeeper alliance.

They highlighted the age of the lines, which our Sarah Cantey discovered includes some over 50 years old, as evidence that the pipeline that runs throughout central Alabama may have deficiencies such as deterioration, cracks and leaks. They called for an end to spills, leaks and accidents from the Colonial Pipeline to end in Alabama, citing that the explosion that killed one and injured five contract crew members who were working on a final stage of repairing last month’s leak could have been much worse if the incident had occurred along the pipeline route in other locations that are more populated area or closer to rivers.

“We cannot afford to continue playing Russian Roulette with lives and our drinking water,” the Alabama Riverkeepers said in the statement.

Wednesday, the coroner identified the crew member killed in the explosion as Anthony Lee Willingham.

The statement reads in full:

Alabama Riverkeepers completed a preliminary investigation of waterways surrounding the site of the latest Colonial pipeline accident near Helena, Alabama. Thanks to the rapid response of first responders, the Cahaba River and its tributaries were protected from gasoline spill impacts. This is the sixth incident in Alabama involving the Colonial pipeline in 2016.

The Cahaba Riverkeeper, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Coosa Riverkeeper, and Hurricane Creekkeeper, all members of Waterkeeper Alliance, issued this joint statement today.

On six separate occasions this year, Alabama rivers narrowly escaped polluting oil and gas spills from the Colonial pipeline. The latest incident on Halloween had a fatality, serious injuries, and a massive fire that burned for hours. If it had occurred in other locations along the pipeline route that are much more populated or closer to rivers, there could have been much worse consequences. We have every reason to believe that this old pipeline may have other deficiencies such as deterioration, cracks, and leaks. It is time for spills, leaks, and accidents from the Colonial pipeline to end in Alabama. We cannot afford to continue playing Russian Roulette with lives and our drinking water. We call on Colonial pipeline and the regulators who are supposed to ensure the safe operation of pipelines to do a systematic review of the pipeline’s integrity and publicly release their maintenance and system upgrade plan.

Alabama Waterkeepers will continue to monitor the Colonial pipeline to ensure the company starts operating their system safely and without any more spills or accidents.

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