May 2021 Vol. 76 No.5



Size of Pipeline Spill Again Underestimated in North Carolina 

An energy company has again underestimated the amount of gasoline that spilled from a crack in a pipeline running through a North Carolina nature preserve. 

The Colonial Pipeline Company issued a statement saying it likely underestimated the size of the spill at 1.2 million gallons. The company did not provide a new estimate. The company initially reported the size of the spill in September at 273,000 gallons. It revised that estimate upward to 1.2 million gallons in January. The spill occurred in August where the pipeline crosses the Oehler Nature Preserve north of Charlotte. 

North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Dionne Delli-Gatti said that it’s “unacceptable” that the company still can’t accurately assess the size of the spill. The state is requiring the company to issue a revised assessment. 

Colonial said in its statement that its estimates are driven solely by the data it has available to it at the time. Colonial believes it has recovered the majority of what was spilled, it has installed nearly 120 wells to aid in the recovery effort. It is also monitoring nearby residents’ wells and has not found signs of contamination there. 

The pipeline is the largest refined products pipeline in the U.S., carrying than 100 million gallons of fuel a day from Houston Texas to New York Harbor. 

U.S. West Prepares for Possible 1st Water Shortage Declaration 

The man-made lakes that store water supplying millions of people in the U.S. West and Mexico are projected to shrink to historic lows in the coming months, dropping to levels that could trigger the federal government’s first-ever official shortage declaration and prompt cuts in Arizona and Nevada. 

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released 24-month projections this week forecasting that less Colorado River water will cascade down from the Rocky Mountains through Lake Powell and Lake Mead and into the arid deserts of the U.S. Southwest and the Gulf of California. Water levels in the two lakes are expected to plummet low enough for the agency to declare an official shortage for the first time, threatening the supply of Colorado River water that growing cities and farms rely on. 

It comes as climate change theoretically could mean less snowpack flows into the river and its tributaries, and hotter temperatures parch soil and cause more river water to evaporate as it streams through the drought-plagued American West. 

The agency’s models project Lake Mead will fall below 1,075 feet for the first time in June 2021. That’s the level that prompts a shortage declaration under agreements negotiated by seven states that rely on Colorado River water: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. 

The April projections, however, will not have binding impact. Federal officials regularly issue long-term projections but use those released each August to make decisions about how to allocate river water. If projections don’t improve by then, the Bureau of Reclamation will declare a Level 1 shortage condition. The cuts would be implemented in January. 

Arizona, Nevada and Mexico have voluntarily given up water under a drought contingency plan for the river signed in 2019. A shortage declaration would subject the two U.S. states to their first mandatory reductions. Both rely on the Colorado River more than any other water source, and Arizona stands to lose roughly 18 percent of its supply. 

Water agency officials say they’re confident their preparation measures, including conservation and seeking out alternative sources, would allow them to withstand cuts if the drought lingers as expected. 

The Bureau of Reclamation also projected that Lake Mead will drop to the point they worried in the past could threaten electricity generation at Hoover Dam. The hydropower serves millions of customers in Arizona, California and Nevada. 

Jackson Won’t Release Email About 2020 Water System Problems 

The city of Jackson, Miss., has denied a TV station’s public records request for email about problems with the city water treatment system. 

WLBT-TV recently requested all city email related to the Environmental Protection Agency telling Jackson in March 2020 to bring its water treatment system into compliance with federal law. City officials kept the emergency administrative order secret until news organizations recently reported about it. 

WLBT reported that it requested city email related to the order. In a one-page response, the Public Works Department said email is “protected by attorney-client privilege, the attorney work doctrine or as settlement negotiations in an ongoing enforcement action.” 

The response was dated April 13, but was not released until April 16, days after Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba spoke at a City Council meeting and defended his decision to not make the order public. 

“The reason we haven’t sent (it) out is because the draft hasn’t been finalized by any party. When there is a completed document that both the EPA and the city of Jackson agree to, it will be issued,” Lumumba said. 

Correspondence associated with the order appears to contradict the mayor’s statement that the order was still in the negotiation stage, with the EPA calling it a “final agency action.” 

City Council member Ashby Foote said Jackson is in talks with the EPA about the water system but on an issue separate from the 2020 order. He said those negotiations should not prohibit Jackson from releasing the documents requested. 

New Mexico Sues for Cleanup of Abandoned Wells 

The State Land Office announced a lawsuit against two oil and natural gas companies, citing unmet obligations to plug at least 29 abandoned wells in western New Mexico, remove trash and debris and pay penalties for trespassing on an expired lease site. 

The lawsuit against BC&D Operating and Dominion Production Company is the sixteenth in a campaign by the agency to increase accountability for cleanups among natural resources companies that lease state land. 

In a statement, New Mexico State Lands Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard indicated that her agency is seeking voluntary compliance with lease provisions before resorting to litigation. 

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Partners with Dobson Fiber on Communications Network Upgrade 

Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) announced that it has entered into an agreement with Dobson Fiber to upgrade the resiliency and capacity of the company’s communications network backbone to accommodate new grid automation and mitigate risk of wireless interference on the traditional microwave system. 

Through the agreement, the two Oklahoma headquartered companies will build approximately 350 miles of new fiber and leverage over 600 miles of Dobson’s existing network to connect key infrastructure. 

As part of the company’s continued grid enhancement efforts to deploy increased grid automation, monitoring and operational technologies, the agreement with Dobson will upgrade the OG&E network bandwidth from 150 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps). Network security and resiliency will be enhanced, and network reliability and uptime will be increased by adding redundancy using fiber, microwave and links to carrier networks. Moreover, it mitigates the risk of wireless interference as FCC regulations evolve. 

Senate Backs Grading System for Louisiana Water Systems 

The Louisiana Senate unanimously agreed to set up a grading system to tell the public about the condition of the state’s community water systems. 

The proposal by Sen. Fred Mills would require the Louisiana Department of Health to develop the system of grading from A through F, similar to the way the education department grades public school systems. 

Water systems would be judged on their history of federal and state water quality violations, financial sustainability, operations and performance, customer satisfaction and other benchmarks. The health department would have to publish the letter grades online, with the first grades due in 2023. 

Any community water system that receives a D or F grade could be subject to corrective measures such as takeover, financial restrictions and enhanced auditing and would have to submit improvement plans to the health department. 

The proposal from Mills, a Republican from St. Martin Parish, moves next to the House for debate. 

DeSantis, Army Corps Reach Deal on Major Everglades Project 

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an agreement on April 22 with the Army Corps of Engineers that will continue work on a key reservoir in Everglades restoration. 

Work on the long-stalled Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir in western Palm Beach County is to be shared between the state and federal governments. DeSantis the agreement will accelerate the Army Corps portion of the project. 

The state and federal governments have spent billions of dollars over the years on restoration of the Everglades. The vast wetland suffers from lack of adequate fresh water and also fertilizer-laden runoff that brings unwanted nutrients to the system. 

The reservoir will have a water storage component and a wetland with vegetation that can cleanse water from Lake Okeechobee, according to the South Florida Water Management District. 

The plan is to sharply reduce the Lake Okeechobee discharges down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers to estuaries where the water is blamed for blue-green algae blooms and other environmental problems. 

In Memoriam 

James “Jim” Fletcher, consummate salesman and leader, HDPE pioneer and legend in the industry, died March 30, at the age of 82. 

He began his 35-year career at ISCO as the company’s first salesperson and often spoke fondly of his first job, supplying pipe to slipline the sewers at Fort Knox. It was also one of the first and largest jobs for ISCO. 

His early leadership and influence continued and is a big part of the company ISCO is today. Some of the greatest moves throughout ISCO’s history were, in part, guided by Jim’s hand. He introduced high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe to Jim Kirchdorfer, Sr., the founder of ISCO in 1980, and spent 35 years pioneering HDPE. 

While his accomplishments at ISCO and in the HDPE industry are impressive, he was most proud of his children, Bryan and Susan, and his grandchildren: Cameron, Ashley, Ella, and Cole, who will all miss their “papaw."

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