Four years after five people were killed when a gas pipeline exploded on N. 13th St., little has been done to improve the safety of the country’s aging natural gas distribution system.
That was one of the conclusions drawn from the inaugural Mayors Council on Pipeline Safety conference in Philadelphia in May.
More data about the system and better communication is required to make the system safer, according to conference keynote speaker Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, whose remarks were reported by Bloomberg BNA.
“Without exception, every time we see something that goes wrong, somebody is out there who says, ‘We knew about that problem, and we knew it was going to hurt somebody sooner or later,’ ” Hart told the group, according to the report.
Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who was inspired to cofound the Mayors Council after the N. 13th Street explosion in 2011, is frustrated that there are no maps that show where all natural gas pipelines are. On the night of the explosion, it took six hours to figure out where the shut off valves were located, which allowed the fire to continue to burn.
“I still can’t get the gas companies to tell me where the gas lines are,” he said.
“It’s appalling. We have the technology. There’s no reason we can’t figure out where these gas lines are. My theory is that they don’t know where all the gas line are. It’s really scary.”
The Mayors Council supports initiatives that would mandate the use of automatic shutoff valves, speed up the timeline in which utility companies replace steel or iron pipes with plastic, and improve leak detection with more frequent surveys and upgrading leak detection protocols.
For more information about the Mayors Coalition on Pipeline Safety, visit http://mayorscouncilpipelinesafety.com/.