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To the editor:
Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration posted a study of the causes of the December Keystone pipeline rupture in Washington County, Kansas.
The leak occurred in a bend in a pipe that had an oval shape and a bad weld. It was found that TC Energy did not have any pre-installation X-rays of the welds, which are required of high-pressure petroleum pipelines.
A flaw had been detected and the pipe excavated in 2013, but no corrective action was taken.
Leaking 13,000 barrels of tar sands crude, this was the largest domestic pipeline leak since the Enbridge leak in 2010 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
TC Energy has spent $480 million dollars on the cleanup so far. The clean up in Michigan has cost more than $1 billion dollars.
The same Keystone pipeline runs through Marion County from north to south and passes under the Cottonwood River just west of Marion.
South of that, in Wilson Township, right after the pipeline crosses Spring Branch Creek, there is a double 45-degree bend to facilitate going under Union Pacific rail right of way.
In November of 2010, I observed personnel from Shihan Construction excavate and replace a section of the pipe with the two bends. This occurred after the pipeline had been finished and just before it was put into service.
I inquired with a contact I had with PHMSA. No information was provided by the company. X-rays of the welds are property of the company and therefore not available to the public.
The circumstance of the Washington County spill and possible flaws in the pipeline as it passes through Kansas on its way to Cushing, Oklahoma, should raise alarm in all of the adjacent communities.
This poses a threat to water, land, and the environment. There should be a call from local officials to have the pipeline shut down for thorough and complete inspections by regulators or third-party contractors before disaster befalls another community.
It should be remembered that TC Energy received a 10-year property tax abatement by the Kansas Legislature, and that Marion County just collected the first tax draw from the pipeline for 2022.
Maybe TC Energy should have put that tax gift into maintenance for the pipeline to make it safer.
Harry E. Bennett
Last modified May 25, 2023