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Greenville Business Magazine

Upstate Forever says gully potential danger to Spartanburg pipeline

Aug 07, 2018 03:31PM ● By Chris Haire

Photos submitted by Upstate Forever of the reported site in question.

Upstate Forever and Dominion Energy don't exactly see eye to eye.

In fact, the Greenville-based environmental watchdog group has long been a thorn in the side of the multi-state energy giant, leading the opposition to Dominion's Transco to Charleston pipeline.

While Upstate Forever's effort to block the line failed, that hasn't changed their opinion the line is an environmental threat.

On Friday, Upstate Forever announced they had discovered a gully forming in the right-of-way of the 12-inch pipeline in Spartanburg, calling the eroded property "dangerous" since it could "eventually threaten the structural integrity and safety of the newly-constructed pipeline." 

“We have had continual problems with Dominion’s construction quality and impact on streams throughout this project,” stated Shelley Robbins, energy and state policy manager, “but this is the first one that is a safety threat.”

The line delivers 80,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas, according to the environmental group.
Upstate Forever claims the "gully, which has encroached to within mere feet of the buried pipeline, was discovered during inspection of the right-of-way along Hobbysville Road near the historic Price House in southern Spartanburg County," following recent rains. 

“There are homes along that road, families,” stated Robbins. “What would have happened if we had not documented this and reported it? Dominion never mentions it in their construction reports but they clearly know about it.” 

Robbins also claims that although the "gully has been surrounded by silt fence and other erosion control devices (ECDs) ... no steps have been taken to stabilize it."

Dominion, however, disagrees with Upstate Forever on several key points. 

No. 1: After visiting the site with a Department of Health and Environmental Control inspector, Dominion says the gully isn't in the pipeline's right-of-way. In fact, the gully is on someone else's property. 

"Some erosion occurred outside the ROW," says Dominion Transmission Communications Project Manager Frank Mack, "and the company will correspond with the affected landowner and federal regulator to ensure a proper response."

No. 2: The gully isn't a threat to the pipeline, Dominion says. 

"Upon visiting the area, all erosion and sediment controls were in place and were working as expected within the project’s right of way," Mack says, later adding, "The pipeline continues to operate safely and at no time was there any risk to the infrastructure’s integrity."

Although Dominion claims the pipeline is in no danger, Upstate Forever believes the proper steps were not taken to protect the pipeline.

Prior to the pipe's laying, the group "insisted on special construction precautions specifically in southern Spartanburg County due to the area’s sensitive ecosystems and steep slopes." The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not agree.

“FERC stated that Dominion’s construction and erosion plan was ‘adequate.’ This is far from adequate. This is dangerous,” stated Robbins. “If that gully were allowed to undermine the pipeline itself, it would threaten the structural integrity of the steel and the welds. And no one would ever know this threat even exists except Dominion. Those families in those homes along Hobbysville Road would have no idea."

Robbins claims that the "newly-constructed TransCanada Pipeline in West Virginia exploded in July after erosion caused a landslide."

“Building pipelines in this sensitive area carries additional risks which aren’t being mitigated by Dominion. And now, when we know that weather patterns are going to dump massive amounts of rain, this is a tragedy waiting to happen."