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PHMSA warns climate change threatens pipelines, citing Michigan example

The deluge of water gushing through Sanford, Midland and nearby communities was not the only release to follow the failures of a pair of central Michigan dams on May 19, 2020. 

The forceful water scoured and washed away roads, including one that surrounded a 4-inch Consumers Energy Co. steel gas distribution pipeline in Edenville Township. 

That pipeline was severed because of heavy rain fall, according to reports from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the federal body charged with overseeing the transportation of energy and other hazardous materials. It released 461,304 cubic feet of natural gas, a “significant” event that cost roughly $4 million, according to a PHMSA report

The incident serves as a warning to pipeline operators across the country, PHMSA officials said in June when it issued a notice encouraging owners to shore up their pipelines against increasingly unstable conditions. 

“Changing weather patterns due to climate change, including increased rainfall and higher temperatures, may impact soil stability in areas that have historically been stable,” PHMSA officials wrote in the June 2 bulletin. “These phenomena can pose a threat to the integrity of pipeline facilities if those threats are not identified and mitigated.”

Flood damage to Michigan Highway 30 is seen at Wixom Lake in Michigan, on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, where floodwaters took out the bridge.

Mohammad Najafi, director of the Center for Underground Infrastructure Research & Education at the University of Texas at Arlington and founder of the ASCE Journal of Pipeline Systems, agreed with PHMSA’s warnings that climate change jeopardizes underground pipelines.

“Extreme weather conditions like the fires, the hot weather, the flooding and the soil erosion due to flooding,” all exacerbated by a warming climate, threaten to melt plastic pipes and wash away the supportive soil around pipes no matter what material they’re made from, he said. 

Read More: PHMSA warns climate change threatens pipelines, citing Michigan example

2022-08-03 23:23:22

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