News


Pipeline in San Bruno blast runs through Palo Alto

Line 132 is on PG&E's list of retrofit projects; residents have mixed reactions

The aging natural-gas pipeline under investigation in the Sept. 9 San Bruno explosion and fire also runs through Palo Alto, according to a 2008 map from the California Energy Commission.

Known as Line 132, the 54-year-old pipeline runs down the Peninsula from San Francisco along the Interstate 280-Junipero Serra Boulevard corridor.

The line has not been replaced since its installation, PG&E spokeswoman Katie Romans said Friday.

Romans said the 30-inch steel pipeline was installed in 1956. The entire 51.5-mile gas line runs from Milpitas along California State Route 237 and Interstate 880 and ends in San Francisco at 23rd Avenue and Illinois Street, she said.

A 31.9-mile segment of Line 132 has been identified as needing retrofitting as part of PG&E's In-Line Inspection major capital-improvements projects for 2012, according to a PG&E report. It was not immediately clear if the Palo Alto segment is included in the 31.9 miles.

Line 132 is one of 10 aging pipelines scheduled for a retrofit, none of which currently can be inspected using the latest technology, called "smart pigging." Pigging is an industry term referring to the process by which a data-gathering instrument travels within a pipeline to accurately assess steel-pipe wall thickness and look for weakened metal due to corrosion and damage, according to a PG&E report.

Two other gas-transmission lines also run through Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View: Line 101 and Line 109, Romans said.

Line 109 is also located in the Highway 280-Junipero Serra corridor, and Line 101 runs near the U.S. Highway 101, according to a California Department of Conservation map.

The lines change diameter along the route, with a maximum of 30 inches, she said. She declined to give exact locations of lines 101 or 109, citing security concerns.

In Palo Alto, Line 132 runs along Page Mill Road and Oregon Expressway. It turns south on Alma Street, goes left onto El Carmelo Avenue, jogs south onto Waverley Street, then goes eastward on Loma Verde Avenue. It proceeds south on Cowper Street and heads east on Ashton Avenue, then continues south along Middlefield Road through Mountain View.

The last corrosion check on the pipeline was done in November 2009 and the last routine gas-leak surveys, which are above ground, were done on March 2010, she said.

Residents who live on the north side of Ashton in Midtown, in whose back yards PG&E Line 132 is buried, said PG&E and City of Palo Alto Utilities workers showed up as early as last Saturday (Sept. 11), two days after the San Bruno explosion, to inspect the pipeline.

A PG&E inspector used a machine to search for gas leaks in Cindy Campbell's yard but found none, she said. She asked if she could buy a similar detection machine, but the worker said they cost about as much as a small car. City utilities workers also stopped by on Wednesday, she said.

She said the pipe diameter is 24 inches along Ashton.

Residents expressed varying degrees of concern about the risk of a gas explosion in their neighborhood.

"It's a thing not likely to happen. I'm not that concerned. It hasn't been a problem before," said Jane Volpe, a Realtor, adding that both the city and PG&E had also visited her property.

But neighbor Judith Dvorak said she feels uneasy. There are a number of homes that are built too close to the PG&E gas-transfer line, she said.

When she and her husband planned to remodel their house in 1990, extending it into the back yard, they were told by PG&E that their remodel would not work due to the home's proposed proximity to the pipeline, she said. So the Dvoraks changed their plans.

But other neighbors have since rebuilt their homes nearer to the pipes, she said.

"I feel very uneasy especially because of the houses that are too close to the line," Dvorak said. "It's a sore point for us."

Another resident, who asked not to be identified, said that nothing has changed for her because of the San Bruno incident.

"What can I do? It's always been there," she said, referring to the pipeline.

But Campbell wants to use the San Bruno incident as a springboard for ensuring her neighborhood is safe. At an upcoming Ashton block party, Campbell plans on handing out the utilities department's "Gas Pipeline Safety Awareness" brochures and opening up a discussion with her neighbors about the topic.

Related materials:

Palo Alto pipeline risks still in question

View a larger version of the map

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by how to replace?
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2010 at 10:01 am

What is involved in replacing these pipelines? Do they need to tear up the highways?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Obviously we need to consider rerouting where possible. A widened RR right of way might also bring in a new gas main.


Like this comment
Posted by Grandma
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Is pipeline No. 132 the same pipeline that failed and exploded at El Carmelo School in 1966? Luckily this happened at night and no one was injured but parts of El Carmelo School had to be rebuilt


Like this comment
Posted by Big Al
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Just to keep in perspective ..
---
Web Link

Over the past two decades, federal officials tallied 2,840 significant gas pipeline accidents nationwide -- including 992 in which someone was killed or required hospitalization, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Those accidents killed 323 people and injured 1,372.
---


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 2:38 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

And, Bill, how many deaths from nuclear power accidents in that period?


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2010 at 5:29 am

> And, Bill, how many deaths from nuclear power accidents
> in that period?

In what country?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 6:07 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

All of them, Bill.
And that is real deaths, not overreacting worse case scenarios.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 7:05 am

Thank you for this article! As soon as we understood the source of the San Bruno tragedy, our thoughts turned to our own home and what ever might be buried nearby. To hear our neighbors talking about the proximity of these lines to their homes makes it very clear that we, as a community, share the responsibility to make sure these lines are made safe. It isn't just for those who live right next to the lines to take care of. Most of us use natural gas, and if its delivery to our homes puts anyone at risk, it's up to us to follow through.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2010 at 9:02 am

> All of them
> And that is real deaths, not overreacting worse case scenarios.

For the most part, the Ukraine is the only one of note. Having communicated with someone living in that country about this issue, the general sense is that over 75,000 people have died because of the aftermath of the meltdown. These deaths are from cancers, of one form or another.

However, this question about "how many deaths can be attributed to nuclear power" comes in two parts --

a) how many actual deaths
b) how many possible deaths could we expect from a worst case scenario for a containment breach of a reactor?

The problem is that the "worst case scenarios" can not be swept under the rug.

By the way, in your answer, please include the level of compensation that the owner of the nuclear facility should be responsible for. (If memory serves, the level of responsibility was very low in the past, --maybe a total of $75M. Please don't forget to discuss this point in your answer.)


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 9:26 am

It is my understanding that the exclusion zone around Chernobyl has lower radiation than the natural radiation in Denver, CO. Should Denver be evacuated, too?

"the general sense is that over 75,000 people have died because of the aftermath of the meltdown "

Everyone who dies of cancer, and that is about 20% of deaths, will blame their cancer on a local source of radiation...thus the "general sense".

The proper question to ask about energy sources, IMO, is how much good is done versus how much bad. Clearly, natural gas and nuclear energy come out ahead in that equation.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2010 at 1:24 pm

> Everyone who dies of cancer, and that is about 20% of deaths,
> will blame their cancer on a local source of radiation
---
Web Link

But other reputable scientists researching the most radiation-contaminated areas of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are not convinced. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, another UN agency, predicts 16,000 deaths from Chernobyl; an assessment by the Russian academy of sciences says there have been 60,000 deaths so far in Russia and an estimated 140,000 in Ukraine and Belarus.

Meanwhile, the Belarus national academy of sciences estimates 93,000 deaths so far and 270,000 cancers, and the Ukrainian national commission for radiation protection calculates 500,000 deaths so far.
-----

Given the wide variances, it's not hard to see why people are not happy with "the experts", and rightly afraid of this technology.

> nuclear energy come out ahead in that equation.

While not an opponent of nuclear energy my self, I am concerned about the lack of systemic accounting for the costs of storing/reprocessing of spent nuclear materials. Too much of the process is out of the public's vantage point, and accident danger is too easily dismissed by supporters of this energy source.





Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Bill,

You left out this part from your link:

"The UN's World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency claim that only 56 people have died as a direct result of the radiation released at Chernobyl and that about 4,000 will die from it eventually."

"Four years ago, an IAEA spokesman said he was confident the WHO figures were correct. And Michael Repacholi, director of the UN Chernobyl forum until 2006, has claimed that even 4,000 eventual deaths could be too high. The main negative health impacts of ­Chernobyl were not caused by the ­radiation but by the fear of it, he claimed."

The USSR, then Ukraine did not close down Chernobyl, because they felt that they could not survive the economic blow that it would cause. To put it another way, despite the explosion, the plant has done more good than bad.

Despite the fact that natural gas pipelines sometimes explode, try living without natural gas.


Like this comment
Posted by Chernobyl
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I visited southern Ukraine a few years ago. They had huge orphanages down there with children from the Chernobyl fallout zone. The government didn't have enough money to move whole cities and they figured the parents were walking dead anyway, but they wanted the next generation to have a chance.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Chernobyl,

Yes, mass irrational panic can be a disaster. In the case you mention, if true, it was the government that overreacted. The fear of radiation, in this case, was much worse than the radiation itself.

Again, the government did not shut down the nuclear plant, because it would have caused more death and misery than keeping it open. It is better to look at the actual facts, instead of the fear-mongering.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Two issues here: Gas pipeline safety, and, Nuclear Power. The subject of Chernobyl has come up. As it happens, there is an excellent article in Wikipedia:

Web Link

Jim writes: "It is my understanding that the exclusion zone around Chernobyl has lower radiation than the natural radiation in Denver, CO. Should Denver be evacuated, too?"

This is mixing apples and oranges. The background radiation standing in a spot is very different from the radiation you would receive if you grew and ate food in the same location. There is a substantial, persistent soil contamination with Cesium-137, preventing most agricultural uses. Interestingly, after Chernobyl, there was a large excess of Thyroid cancer in the vicinity (happily, most cases are treatable). This was long hypothesized to be the likely result of such an accident- the Chernobyl "experiment" confirmed the hypothesis. The ultimate impact on life expectancy in the neighborhood and around the globe (there were areas in Central and Western Europe with some exposure as well) has been debated and variously estimated, but, even pro-nuclear advocates admit that the effect has been significant. Of course, there are lots of other risks out there, too, like natural gas pipelines, and, lightning in Florida to name a couple.

Back to pipelines: the traversal of two aging and outdated major transmission pipelines to residential areas and proximity to numerous schools is definitely a safety concern. In particular, the zigzagging route through Midtown and past El Carmelo school seems unnecessary, and risky in light of the San Bruno incident.




Like this comment
Posted by AM
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm

What did this area look like in 1956? Wasn't it all fruit orchards and farmhouses? Look at it now: office complexes, tech company "campuses", new housing developments, apartments, shopping complexes, etc, etc, etc The demand for natural gas has skyrocketed in recent decades, yet the original pipes are still there. The pipes that were designed to serve a few, rural communities. The San Bruno tragedy is a consequence an obsolete, aging and neglected infrastructure, and I fear it will happen again. Forget building high speed rail, we have to focus on maintaining these older systems first.


Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 19, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Sue Dremann and Sally Schilling, can you please tell us about the pipelines running through Los Altos?


Like this comment
Posted by umm what happened here
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2010 at 8:21 am

How did this turn from the San Bruno event to Chernobyl??? The bottom line is that if it is ur time then its ur time ... nothing u do is going to keep it from happening ... Do you all want to live ur lives worrying about what might happen to you or live ur life to the fullest ??? Enjoy life and try to stop annalyzing everything to the point that it keeps u from living a full life ... Life is way to short ... Stop worrying and live it up ... for only God knows if you will be here tomorrow ....


Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2010 at 11:48 am

To answer AM's question, the area through which the PG&E line 132 jogs was a mixture in 1956--some houses (e.g. at least from 1946 on Kipling Street) and some undeveloped land.

In my view, the line 132 should be relocated to Oregon Expwy, away from homes & schools (comparatively speaking).

The Midtown Residents Association would be well-advised to take this issue up with PG&E and the City of P.A.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

In the case of TMI and Chernobyl, the main casualties were those who died from dirtier power sources replacing the functional units shut down by fear. Where is the study of increased cancer in the resident animal population around Chernobyl? Where are the three eyed fish? Where are the super-strength spiders? They are all right where they have always been, in the fevered fantasies of the pathological ignorant.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter walter walter
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm

"in the fevered fantasies of the pathological ignorant."

As usual, Walter, does not hesitate to denigrate and insult those that do not march in lockstep with his twisted doctrine. Yet if you dare to return his insults, Walter gets uptight and demands apologies and the banning of those that dare to dish it out like he does. Walter should get out of the kitchen if he cannot take the heat.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm


> Where are the studies ..

Wikipedia Page On Chernobyl:
Web Link

This section contains a lengthy section on the impact on human health:

"Assessing the disaster's effects on human health"

Reading through this section provides widely disparate findings, depending on the group writing the report.

Chernobyl's Legacy (2006 Working Group):
Web Link

> Where is the study of increased cancer in the resident animal
> population around Chernobyl?

The response of the natural environment to the accident was a
complex interaction between radiation dose and radiosensitivities
of the different plants and animals. Both individual and
population effects caused by radiation-induced cell death have
been observed in biota inside the Exclusion Zone as follows:

— Increased mortality of coniferous plants, soil
invertebrates and mammals; and

— Reproductive losses in plants and animals.

And, in addition to direct human health costs --

(Around Page.30) --

What was the economic cost of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster?

The costs of the Chernobyl nuclear accident can only be calculated with a high degree of estimation, given the non-market conditions prevailing and volatile exchange rates of the transition
period that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, the magnitude of the impact is clear from a variety of government estimates from the 1990s, which put the cost of the accident, over two decades, at hundreds of billions of dollars.


Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Has anyone stopped to consider that, since there are gas mains and services everywhere in Palo Alto (and the services go right up to each building!), the best way to stay safe is to report gas odors immediately (even indoors), call Underground Service Alert to locate pipes before you dig in your yard and trust that the City follows stringent rules, including yearly gas leak detection surveys mandated by the DOT? Common sense should prevail, since panic fueled by ignorance or mis-information only creates chaos.


Like this comment
Posted by Gary Ruppel
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm

As I stated in an earlier post, the sectionof line 132 between Alma & Waverley was was replaced several years ago by Shaw Pipeline Services (a sub-contractor for PG&E). Also , if you want gas service there is an ement of "acceptable risk". Nothing in life is risk free.


Like this comment
Posted by resident of midtown area
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Tip- Dont ask a realtor a question that might affect their bottom
line. They will not give you an honest answer.

That aside I wonder how the hi-speed rail project and all the digging
and hammering they have to do will affect the pipe. I dont trust
any of the thugs at PG&E to be honest about anything..Perhaps the
palo alto utilities will be more forthcoming and pro-active. These
lines need to be replaced and equipeed with shutoff valves.


Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 20, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Gary: please let us know where we can read the record of Shaw Pipeline Services' replacement of that section of line 132 between Alma & Waverley. I'm not panicking, but a paper trail is best.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Jordan Middle School

on Jul 29, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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