Do you live near a pipeline?
Pipelines exist almost everywhere throughout the U.S. and chances are you may live near or drive past one every day. Although pipelines are generally buried underground, there are several ways you can see if there is a pipeline in your neighborhood.
How to identify a pipeline
Pipelines are marked by above ground signs to provide an indication of their presence, location, product carried and the name and contact information of the company that operates the pipeline. Pipelines are located in areas called a right-of-way (ROW) and these ROW's are often recognizable as corridors that are clear of trees, buildings or other structures except for the pipeline markers. Sometimes ROWs may not have markers clearly present and may only be indicated by cleared corridors of land.
The primary function of these above ground markers is to identify the location of the pipeline generally as an alert to those who might be working along the pipeline corridor for another utility or during the construction of homes or businesses nearby.
Preventing pipeline emergencies
One of the greatest single challenges to safe pipeline operations is the accidental damage caused by excavation, construction, farming activities – or even homeowner construction and maintenance.
Oil and gas pipeline companies have joined with other infrastructure operators – electric utilities, fiber optic cables, telephone lines, water and sewer mains – to create and finance "One Call" centers that serve all 50 states and the District of Columbia. While laws vary by state, they all require excavators to contact the one-call center responsible for their area before any digging begins. No digging should occur until a call is made to "One Call"
Five key reminders to DIG SAFELY
- Call Before You Dig
- Await the Required Time
- Respect the Marks
- Excavate (Dig) with Care
- Safety is Everyone's Responsibility
Recognizing a pipeline leak
Despite the industry's best efforts and government oversight, leaks from pipelines do sometimes happen. The best ways for you to detect a spill in your neighborhood is to use your senses of sight, smell, and sound. You may have a leak if:
- You see dead or discolored vegetation that is otherwise green along a pipeline ROW, or see pools of liquid not otherwise usually present along the pipeline ROW, or see a cloud of vapor or mist not otherwise usually present along the pipeline ROW;
- You smell an unusual odor or scent of petroleum along a pipeline ROW;
- You hear an unusual hissing or roaring sound along a pipeline ROW.
Responding if a leak occurs
If you have detected the signs that a leak may have occurred, you should take the following actions:
- Leave the leak area immediately. Walk into the wind away from possible hazardous fumes.
- Do not touch, breath or make contact with leaking liquids.
- Do not light a match, start an engine, use a telephone (even a cell phone), switch on/off light switches or do anything that may create a spark.
- From a safe location, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency response number and the pipeline company. Call collect, if needed, and give your name, phone number, a description of the leak and its location.
- Warn others.
- Do not drive into a leak or vapor cloud area.