Sabal Trail says hazaradous Mercaptan leaks are no danger to the public 2017-08-17

OSHA says the Mercaptan that was smelled miles from the leak “can cause problems for the respiratory system and the central nervous system” but Sabal Trail’s Andrea Grover says “there is no danger to the public”. Which do you believe?

Pinocchio Hint: this is the same Andrea Grover about which the newspaper of record in Valdosta, Georgia wrote four years ago:

Letters submitted to the Valdosta Daily Times and to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could contradict a recent statement by Sabal Trail’s Andrea Grover.

Looks like we have Pinocchio with her nose growing doing PR for the Three Stooges.

Jessica Lipscomb, Miami New Times, 17 August 2017, Stinky Leaks From Florida’s Controversial Sabal Trail Pipeline Scares Residents,

When a group called Sabal Trail began building a 515-mile natural gas pipeline from Alabama to Florida, protestors rightly worried about the possibility of a leak or explosion. All along, Sabal Trail representatives assured residents who lived by the pipeline that the risk of a gas leak was “minimal.”

“The Project pipeline and associated aboveground facilities will be designed, constructed, maintained, and operated to meet or exceed the safety requirements,” the company insisted.

But less than five weeks after gas began flowing through the pipeline, residents in Marion County — an area west of Ocala where Sabal Trail plans to build a giant compressor station — reported smelling a strong odor of gas in the town of Dunnellon. Earlier this month, it happened again.

The New Times story recaps much of what WWALS has posted, about the first incident, when Sabal Fail wrapped it in towels, sprayed a deodorant, and waited until morning, and the second multi-day incident two weeks later. The story continues:

The WWALS Watershed [Coalition], led by Suwannee Riverkeeper John [S.] Quarterman, has long fought the pipeline, expressing concern that gas could leak into Florida’s rivers or even its aquifer. After Quarterman wrote a number of government regulatory agencies complaining about the mercaptan leak, Sabal Trail responded in a letter that it planned to fix the odorant tanks, adding there’s no requirement to report odorant leaks to the public.

The letter stressed that “no natural gas leak occurred at any time related to the reports of a smell from the vicinity of Sabal Trail’s Dunnellon Compressor Station site,” although Quarterman points out there’s no way to know from that sentence whether a natural gas leak occurred during a different time. Sabal Trail did not respond to New Times’ request for comment.

Quarterman, meanwhile, says it’s inexcusable that Marion County Fire Rescue is left holding the bag while federal agencies have yet to respond.

“How can that possibly be the way things should work, that a local county is left dealing with the situation without assistance from the agencies that permitted the pipeline in the first place?” he says. “The system is massively broken.”

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of the Sierra Club says what happened in Dunnellon is a scary reminder of how unprepared the state is to deal with a natural gas leak.

“There is no clarity on how Florida emergency personnel are going to handle transmission ruptures, leaks, and explosions,” she says. “The citizens in Florida are not clear, based on this experience, on how that will be handled in a community.”…

Marion County Fire Rescue spokesman James Lucas tells New Times the department responds to every call as an emergency and will continue to respond to reports of gas smells in the area.

“If we get a 911 call about an odor of gas in the area, we’re going out there and responding with our hazmat team,” he says. “We’ve toured the facility, we’ve designed our training scenarios around the pipeline for a natural gas leak, and we’re fully prepared in Marion County to handle the full spectrum of hazmat, to include a natural gas leak or odor.”

Which will be more tax dollars Marion County is spending because state and federal agencies permitted Ms. Grover’s pipeline boondoggle.

Here’s Ms. Grover’s “no danger” statement that Miami New Times says came in after they published their story:

“Over the past several weeks, Sabal Trail has been working through minor mechanical issues on the above ground odorant equipment at the future compressor station site along State Route 200 near Dunnellon in Marion County. During those activities, some have smelled the odorant that is typically added to the natural gas. The tanks are permanent and store the odorant prior to it being combined with the natural gas.

Natural gas in its natural state is odorless. The US Department of Transportation, who regulates interstate natural pipelines, has regulations where odorant is required to be added.”

The US DoT office supposedly responsible for pipeline safety is the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which has given no indication that it was notified by Sabal Trail nor that PHMSA had done anything about any of these Mercaptan leaks.

PHMSA doesn’t even have Sabal Trail on its public map viewer, more than a month after Sabal Trail said it was operational:

Marion County, Florida

The one pipeline shown is Florida Gas Transmission (FGT).

PHMSA’s map viewer also shows no incidents or accidents, so apparently this hazardous Mercaptan leak called in to 911 by people miles away doesn’t count.

Here is a zoom on the are including the compressor station site, which you can clearly see just west of FL 200, as you can also see Sabal Trail west of there running north through Dunnellon and past Dunnellon High School.

Dunnellon Compressor Station

Ms. Grover’s excuses continue:

“At no time, has there been a natural gas leak from the pipeline and there is no danger to the public.”

So what OSHA calls a hazardous chemical, which Marion County Fire Rescue detected apparently many times the hazardous level, Sabal Trail calls “no danger to the public.”

“Sabal Trail is actively working to permanently resolve this issue as soon as possible, and we will continue to coordinate these activities with the county’s first responders.”

What does she mean “we will continue”? Sabal Trail did not notify anybody about any of these leaks, not even Marion County Fire Rescue, and admitted in their latest letter that Sabal Trail is not required to notify anybody.

On the second day of the second incident (Sunday, Augusi 6, 2017), Marion County Fire Rescue reported:


That would be Friday, August 4, the day before a local citizen called in the second stink leak, which was how Marion County Fire Rescue learned about the leak, not from Sabal Trail. Sabal Trail only got around to telling Marion County about that Friday work two days later, after two days of 911 calls.

So apparently nobody is in charge of pipeline safety for a 500+ mile interstate natural gas pipeline from Alabama through Georgia and Florida, permitted by FERC, USACE, and FDEP: nobody except Marion County Fire Rescue. This despite the objections to permitting by Marion County, as well as three other Florida counties, five Georgia counties, and all three of the biggest Georgia cities on the pipeline path.

Does that seem right to you?

What was that a protester in Albany, Georgia said about Dougherty County residents? “they’ve been lied to from the beginning.”

What was it a Searsmont, Maine resident said after Spectra’s compressor station there blew in the middle of the night? “We’ve been lied to!”

As Spectra Energy itself said years ago after a compressor station blowout in Pennsylvania, “Recent pipeline incidents have shaken the public’s confidence.”

If you don’t think it’s right for local citizens and governments to be left to deal with pipeline safety problems with no assistance from the state and federal agencies that permitted the pipeline, here are some things you can do.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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