Enbridge Oil Leaks, Calif. Explosion Raise Questions of Pipeline Integrity

Romeoville sits atop "pipeline crossroads," county commissioner says

By Dick Johnson
|  Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010  |  Updated 7:15 PM CDT
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Oil Pipeline Ruptures in Romeoville

Oil was sent onto a roadway and into a retention pond in suburban Chicago on Thursday when an Enbridge pipeline leaked.

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The failure of a segment of oil pipeline in Romeoville last week is part of a "pipeline crossroads," and is highlighting concerns about aging oil and gas pipe network that runs beneath Illinois' suburbs.

The broken pipeline is in Will County, which hosts more miles of underground oil pipelines than any other in the state. And some of the pipes in the network travel through sensitive wetlands.

Will County Commissioner Kathleen Konicki said Tuesday that she's frustrated that local government has very little jurisdiction over the pipelines and wants "more rigorous setback requirements." She said she "worries about the explosion risk."

But a spokeswoman from Enbridge Energy Partners, which owns the pipe that failed, said a pipe's age has nothing to do with its potential to rupture.

"We do spend a lot of money on pipeline integrity and maintenance. We spent $115 million on that last year," said Gina Jordan.

Thousands of gallons of crude leaked into an industrial park and reservoir last week after a 12-foot section of pipe failed.  The oil flow finally stopped Monday, but the cleanup effort could take a month or more to complete officials said.

It was the third pipeline owned by Enbridge to develop a leak in the past three months. More than 800,000 gallons of oil is said to have leaked into waterways from a July pipeline rupture in Michigan and a small leak discovered in upstate New York forced the closure of the pipeline there on Monday.

And while it wasn't connected to Enbridge or oil, last week's gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif. has many questioning the integrity of the nation's pipeline system.

"It is being investigated," said Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Sam Bories. "Primarily by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration with DOT are the ones doing most of that investigation."

The U.S. House's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has scheduled a Wednesday hearing to look into Enbridge's July spill in Michigan. The other spills and the gas incident in California are also likely to be discussed.

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