October 2020 Vol. 75 No. 10



Investigation into Baltimore Explosion Finds Gas Equipment Not to Blame

Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) said its investigation into a recent gas explosion that killed two people and injured seven others found that the company’s pipes and equipment were not responsible for the blast.

“BGE has found that all of its equipment—gas mains, gas service pipes and gas meters, as well as electric equipment—has been operating safely and was not the cause of the natural gas explosion that occurred Aug. 10,” the company said in a press release.

The utility said investigators were also examining customer-owned gas piping and appliances at the scene. The investigation into the cause of the explosion is ongoing, and BGE said it will continue to provide assistance to federal, state and city investigators.

As part of those efforts, BGE analyzed data from the gas and electric smart meters serving the properties involved in the explosion and has provided that data to the Baltimore City Fire Department and other investigators.

“The data from one gas meter was found to be indicative of some type of issue beyond the BGE meter on customer-owned gas equipment and is currently being analyzed by investigators,” the company said.

A portion of the gas main in the vicinity of the explosion and 38 gas service pipes for properties along in that portion of the main on Baltimore’s Labyrinth Road were isolated from the area gas system and taken out of service after the explosion as a safety precaution while emergency rescue operations were underway, BGE said.

BGE said its detailed testing found that no system leaks were involved in the blast. A day after the incident, the gas main and services successfully passed a re-pressurization test required to be placed back in service. Gas service pipes serving properties involved in the explosion also were pressure tested and were found to successfully hold pressure with no leaks, BGE said.

“The 1960s installation age and protected steel materials of the medium-pressure gas mains and service pipes serving the neighborhood where Labyrinth Road is located are very safe and highly reliable with low leak rates,” BGE said.

“While BGE is undertaking a gas system modernization effort to replace aging, outmoded equipment throughout central Maryland, it is focused primarily on removal of low-pressure cast iron, unprotected steel and copper piping that make up less than 20 percent of the gas system but account for 70 percent of the leaks,” BGE said. “These materials are not used in the neighborhood where Labyrinth Road is located.

BGE said it has invested more than $560 million since 2014 in its STRIDE accelerated gas system modernization program and replaced 260 miles of gas main and 64,000 gas service pipes and risers throughout central Maryland.


Three Contractors Dead After Being Trapped in a Manhole

Three contractors working on a storm sewer project in Columbia City, Ind., died after being trapped in a manhole, officials said.

Mayor Ryan Daniel of Columbia City said in a statement that when first responders arrived at the scene, three people were trapped in a 20-foot-deep sewer manhole. About five feet of water was present in the manhole, he said.

Medical personnel immediately began performing life-saving procedures, but all three victims were pronounced dead at the scene. NBC affiliate WPTA-TV reported that a coroner determined they were overcome by fumes and drowned. It identified the men as Jason Ball, 48, his son Bronson Ball, 21, and Douglas Kramer, 43.

It was the first day of work by the contractors who were hired by the city for a storm sewer project, officials said.

Fort Wayne Fire Dept. spokesperson Adam O’Connor said their Technical Rescue Team was called to assist crews in Columbia City. Their deaths were ruled an accident, he said.


Gas Pipeline Explodes Near Oklahoma City

A September natural gas pipeline explosion in Piedmont, Okla., resulted in a fire that was visible for miles around an area north of Oklahoma City, authorities said. The incident forced the evacuation of nearby residents, but no injuries were reported.

Piedmont Fire Chief Andy Logan said the explosion was the result of a rupture in a 12-inch, high-pressure underground line. The blast left a hole roughly 30 feet long and 20 feet wide.

Local news affiliates reported the pipeline belonged to DCP Midstream and quoted a spokesman for the company as saying the fire from the explosion burned for about 30 minutes before the valve was shut off.


Michels Selected by TC Energy to Build U.S. Keystone XL Facilities

Michels Corporation, which earlier announced it was selected for work on a Canadian portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, said it also has been awarded a contract from TC Energy to construct U.S. facilities for the project.

Michels said it will be responsible for the construction of eight pump stations in Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. Construction started in late June and is on schedule for completion in the first quarter of 2021.

During peak construction, Michels Corporation will employ more than 350 people on the facilities projects.


Interior Requests Expedited Environmental Reviews for Energy Projects

The U.S., Department of the Interior has asked the Trump Administration to expedite environmental reviews for several energy projects, including LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) facilities and pipelines, as part of the administration’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

The plan to speed up project approvals comes after President Donald Trump in June ordered the Interior Department and other agencies to scale back environmental reviews under special powers he has during the coronavirus emergency.

More than 60 projects targeted for expedited environmental reviews were detailed in an attachment to a July 15 letter from Assistant Interior Secretary Katherine MacGregor to White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

The letter did not specify how the review process would be hastened. It says the specified energy, environmental and natural resource projects “are within the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to perform or advance.”

Included on Interior’s list are the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas terminal in Oregon and the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in Virginia.

Other projects listed include highway improvements in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and other states; storm levees and wetlands restoration initiatives in Louisiana; the Lake Powell water pipeline in Utah; wind farms in New Mexico and off the Massachusetts coast; and mining projects in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Alaska.

A spokesman for Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in an emailed statement that the administration was taking steps to improve government decision making while still making sure environmental consequences are “thoughtfully analyzed.”

“For far too long, critically important infrastructure, energy and other economic development projects have been needlessly paralyzed by federal red tape,” spokesman Conner Swanson said.


Plastics Pipe Institute Offering Bounty for Old Exhumed HDPE Pipe

The Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI) is offering a $200 bounty for exhumed high-density polyethylene (HDPE) conduit as part of an ongoing research project to demonstrate the longevity of HDPE conduit.

The purpose of the PPI HDPE Conduit Sample Collection Program is to analyze the used conduit for research about long-term performance and durability.

Specifically, the organization is looking for samples that have been in service for 15 years or longer. The reward will go to the samples that are selected for testing.

The project will accept any diameter or SDR and a length of 8 to 20 feet is sufficient.

“This research effort will increase the body of knowledge about the product’s long-term durability for power and communication applications,” said Patrick Vibien, P.Eng., director of engineering for the Power & Communications Division of PPI.


Granite Awarded 5 Sewer Rehab Contracts in Chicago

Granite announced that its pipeline rehabilitation subsidiary, Granite Inliner, has been awarded five sewer renewal contracts totaling approximately $148 million by the city of Chicago.

The five contracts are part of an $8 billion, multi-year program and are funded by the city of Chicago and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Granite Inliner will be responsible for the CIPP (cured in place pipes) lining of 10-inch to 60-inch diameter sewers, structure rehabilitation and sewer repairs for a total of 575,000 lineal feet.

“This project marks our fourteenth year partnering with the City of Chicago since the inception of this sewer renewal program,” said Granite Inliner Regional Vice President Denise McClanahan. “Granite Inliner takes pride in knowing that our work is helping to protect the city’s essential infrastructure and uphold our commitment to sustainable development.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020 and be complete in summer 2022 with an optional one-year extension.


West Virginia Drinking Water Projects Receive Federal Funding

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing $11.3 million for clean drinking water projects in West Virginia, U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced in September.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources will receive $11 million, while the remainder will go to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said he is glad that the EPA is working to protect drinking water resources.

Capito, a West Virginia Republican, said residents of the state deserve clean drinking water and reliable infrastructure.


Ulliman Schutte Awarded DC Sewer Rehabilitation Contract

The design-build team of Ulliman Schutte and Brown and Caldwell has been awarded a contract by DC Water to provide design, engineering, and construction services for the rehabilitation of a deteriorating segment of the Potomac Interceptor.

The Potomac Interceptor (PI) is a component of DC Water’s sewer network conveying an average daily wastewater flow of 60 million gallons per day. Its 50-mile service area extends from the Washington Dulles International Airport through multiple northern Virginia and Maryland counties to the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, where flows are treated before discharge into the Potomac River.

A buried section of the PI along the historic Potomac Heritage Trail, which accepts flows from Virginia’s Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and Maryland’s Montgomery County, will be rehabilitated and renewed.

The design-build team will design the repair and renewal of 600 linear feet of 54 to 78-inch diameter pipe as deep as 65 feet below grade. Design phase activities are expected to be completed in 2021.


Aegion Earns Wastewater Rehab Contract in Maryland

Aegion Corporation said its Insituform subsidiary has been awarded a wastewater rehabilitation contract valued at more than $4 million from Baltimore County, Md.

Insituform will rehabilitate 78,000 linear feet of sanitary sewer main utilizing trenchless technology, including 8-inch to 18-inch cured-in-place (CIPP) pipe, in the community of Essex.

Crews will perform 3,200 vertical feet of manhole rehabilitation and complete 322 lateral seals using full circumferential CIPP liner.

Insituform has won the last three large-scale projects presented for bid in Baltimore County.

As part of the proposal, at least 25 percent of the work will be performed with support from local companies.

The project is expected to begin this fall and conclude by the end of 2021.

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