Our first commitment is to public health and safety. We meet that commitment by maintaining best practice standards in the safe and responsible construction and operation of our pipelines and facilities. Safe, healthy and environmentally sound operations are fundamental to the way we do business and our strong safety record reflects these core values.
Pipeline safety in the United States is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and by designated state agencies. More than 200,000 miles of pipeline crisscross our country. Generally buried underground, they are the safest and most efficient way to move large amounts of natural gas, crude oil, chemicals and related products. These are the products we depend on every day to heat our homes, generate electricity and cook our food. Pipelines also reduce air and water pollution by eliminating the need for trucks and ships on our roads and waterways.
It is important to know where pipelines are located in your community and how to recognize unusual conditions and the signs of a possible leak. The National Pipeline Mapping System is available online at www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov. Pipelines are marked by above ground signs to provide an indication of their presence, location, product carried and the name and contact information of the company that operates the pipeline. These markers are usually red, black or yellow.
Detecting A Leak
The best way to detect a possible pipeline spill or a leak is to use sight, smell and sound. A spill or a leak may exist if:
- You see dead or discolored vegetation that is otherwise green along a pipeline right of way (ROW);
- You see pools of liquid not otherwise usually present;
- You see a cloud of vapor or mist not otherwise usually present along the pipeline ROW;
- You smell an unusual odor or scent of petroleum along a pipeline ROW;
- You hear an unusual hissing or roaring sound along a pipeline ROW.
If you suspect or recognize a leak you should take the following actions:
- Leave the leak area immediately. Walk into the wind and away from possible hazardous fumes.
- Do not touch, breath or make contact with leaking liquids.
- Do not light a match, start an engine, use a telephone (even a cell phone), switch on/off light switches or do anything that may create a spark.
- From a safe location, call 911 or your local emergency response number and the pipeline company.
- Provide your name, phone number, a description of the leak and its location.
- Warn others.
- Do not drive into a leak or vapor cloud area.
Call Before You Dig
Excavation is the single largest cause of damage to the nation’s pipeline system. It accounts for nearly 40% of all accidental spills. You can help maintain the integrity of the pipeline system and prevent accidents by using the nationwide Call-Before-You-Dig service, available by calling 811. Anyone who will be digging or excavating using mechanized equipment — commercial contractors, road maintenance crews, telephone pole installers, fence builders, landscape companies, or home owners who may be digging a drainage ditch, installing a fence or building an addition — can make one telephone call to give notice of their plans to dig in a specific area.
The 811 center then acts as a clearinghouse to inform the owners and operators of underground facilities so that they can go out and mark their facilities, usually within 48 or 72 hours.