First responders get pipeline safety lessons _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Stephanie Warren -- First responders in St. Helena Parish learn about pipeline safety and what to do in the event of an emergency during a meeting Feb. 25. at the Police Jury building in Greensburg.

St. Helena Parish first responders learned about pipeline safety during a Feb. 25 meeting with representatives of Colonial and Plantation Pipeline companies at the Police Jury building in Greensburg.

St. Helena Parish Homeland Security Operations Manager Rita Allen said it is important that first responders understand where pipelines are located, potential hazards and how to identify and respond to a potential leak.

Farm and ranch equipment is used on most of the land in St. Helena Parish, and is a common source of pipeline damage and can cause loss of life and property, said Colonial and Plantation Pipelines lobbyist Steven Hart.

Hart said excavation activities that fall outside the scope of normal farming activities and deep excavation activity, including plowing, tilling, drain tiling, ditch cleaning, terracing or installation of a fence, can endanger underground pipelines.

Farmers and ranchers in St. Helena can protect their family and property by verifying the location of pipelines before excavating and by knowing how to identify, respond to and prevent a leak or rupture, Hart said.

The lobbyist said underground pipelines are everywhere. More than 2 million miles of pipelines crisscross the United Colonial Pipeline, which runs throughout St. Helena Parish and transports more barrels of refined petroleum products more miles than any other pipeline in the world, he said.

Hart said it is important for emergency responders to work together and know what to do in an emergency situation.

“These pipeline companies rely on your local government and safety officials to notify them if you observe potential right-of-way restriction violations or potential damage to their facilities, which could endanger public safety,” said Hart.

Plantation Pipe Line Company delivers approximately 600,000 barrels per day of gasoline, jet fuel, diesel and biodiesel through its 3,100-mile pipeline network, which originates in Baton Rouge and ends in the Washington, D.C., area, said Plantation Operations Manager Paul Wallace.

“Excavators and homeowners should call 811 before starting any digging for projects such as fences, flagpoles, landscaping, storage buildings, foundations, swimming pools, ground clearing, deep plowing, laying underground pipe or wiring,” Colonial Pipeline Baton Rouge Operations Manager Carroll White said.

“This is a national number that connects you with a one-call center, which will notify the pipeline or other utility which may be buried in the area.”

White said the one-call system should be contacted at least 48 hours in advance before digging. In most states, this is the law. In all cases, it’s the safe thing to do, he said. 

White said residents who notice an unsafe condition at a Colonial Pipeline facility or on one of their rights-of-way, can call (800) 926-2728. For emergencies dealing with Plantation pipelines, residents can call (800) 510-5678.

These phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Residents also are encouraged to call 911 for emergency situations.