Monday, September 23, 2013

TOP STORY >> Lawsuit by CAW coming

Leader staff writer

Central Arkansas Water notified ExxonMobil and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration this week it will file suit to stop the reopening of the Pegasus Pipeline that ruptured at Mayflower on March 29 if the PHMSA doesn’t begin proceedings to address violations of the Pipeline Safety Act that CAW has uncovered.

“CAW’s immediate goal is to prevent the restart of the pipeline until CAW has had the opportunity to review all relevant data and identify additional safety and integrity measures needed in the Maumelle Watershed,” CAW CEO Graham Rich said in a letter Thursday to elected leaders, including Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman and Congressman Tim Griffin.

“Therefore, CAW has determined that we must submit a 60 day notice … that provides CAW the option to file suit under the federal Pipeline Safety Act and associated regulations.

“The continued lack of critical data requested by CAW has raised legitimate concerns regarding the potential of the Pegasus Pipeline restarting before CAW has sufficient time to review the necessary information and make informed decisions regarding the protection of the Maumelle Watershed,” Rich said.

CAW supplies drinking water to about 400,000 residents of central Arkansas, including Sherwood, Jackson-ville and Cabot. The primary source of that water is the 9,000-acre Lake Maumelle with a watershed area of 137 square miles. The Pegasus runs from the northeast corner of the watershed to the southeast corner. It runs near the north shore of the lake for about five miles and crosses the Maumelle River, which feeds the lake in three places.

If the water from Lake Maumelle was contaminated, Lake Winona — the only other water source — would be able to provide only about 38 percent of the required amount.

CAW attorneys Hiburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski and Calhoun say in the notice of intent to file suit that Exxon Mobil is in violation of the Pipeline Safety Act in several areas.

The company allegedly failed to implement and maintain an adequate integrity-management program in the watershed. It is accused of failing to select a pipeline assessment method capable of assessing the integrity of the seams on the Pegasus and not changing its integrity management program after the line ruptured twice inside the watershed during testing in 2006 — before the heavy crude from Canada began flowing through it.

ExxonMobil did not notify CAW about those ruptures.

The suit will also allege that ExxonMobil failed to take adequate measures to mitigate the consequences of a pipeline failure in the watershed.

There is only one valve station on the Pegasus in the watershed, and it could take up to two hours to reach it — enough time for 800,000 to 1.2 million gallons of the crude oil to dump into the watershed, the intent to sue says.

The crude is the consistency of peanut butter and must be mixed with other chemicals to make it flow.

At least one chemical is a known cancer-causing agent, the intent to sue says. And all of them evaporate, which would allow any crude dumped into water to sink, making cleanup more difficult.