Lack of shutoffs for pipeline troubles Wilsonville
This story has been updated from its original version
The City of Wilsonville is concerned about a Kinder Morgan high-pressure gasoline pipeline flowing near its water treatment facility that — if it ruptures — could compromise Wilsonville citizens' water and the water of many more Portland metro area residents following an expansion of the facility.
Last week, the two sides, as well as representatives from Beaverton, Sherwood, Hillsboro, Tigard, the Tualatin Valley Water District and the Oregon Legislative Assembly, met to discuss the issue.
They did not come to an agreement but the City of Wilsonville will send a summary detailing its concerns to Kinder Morgan and another meeting is planned for either March or April, according to Wilsonville City Attorney Barbara Jacobson.
"I think they feel like they do a good job of monitoring the system so they don't have a lot of ruptures and leaks but they did acknowledge it was a unique situation and if there was a leak it could have significant consequences so they said it would merit additional analysis on their part," Jacobson said.
"I'm optimistic that they will do something but I don't know for sure."
The water intake facility is located less than one-third of a mile downstream from the pipeline and will soon be expanded to serve Beaverton, Tigard and Hillsboro. The pipeline runs under Inza R. Wood Middle School, Villebois and other Wilsonville neighborhoods.
The meeting took place after Knapp sent a letter in October 2017 to Kinder Morgan, an energy based company based in Texas, asking it to reconsider an initial decision not to add emergency flow restriction devices (shutoff valves) to the pipeline. The letter was co-signed by Beaverton Mayor Dennis Doyle, Hillsboro Utilities Commission Chair John Godsey, Sherwood City Manager Joseph Gall, Tigard City Manager Martha L. Wine and Tualatin Valley Water District CEO Mark Knudson.
The City learned of the lack of the shutoff valves in 2016 via a letter from Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) Director for the Western Region Chris Hoidal sent to Kinder Morgan informing them of violations including the lack of shut off valve implementation. The federal regulatory body conducted pipeline inspections in 2009 and 2012.
Kinder Morgan initially rejected the urgings of the federal body to add shutoff valves because the installation of the pipeline predated a federal regulation mandating safety shutoffs. Kinder Morgan says the shutoff valves are only required in order to protect a "high consequence area," according to the letter.
Knapp argued in the letter to Kinder Morgan that because the water intake facility serves Wilsonville residents and will soon serve many municipalities, it is located in a high consequence area.
Jacobson said City officials informed Kinder Morgan representatives at the meeting that, once the intake facility is renovated and expanded to serve a much larger swath of the population, it will provide water to large corporations such as Intel and Nike and a leak could affect the Oregon and national economies.
While Jacobson says Kinder Morgan has installed two manual shutoff valves that aren't in close proximity to the treatment facility, the City would like Kinder Morgan to install two automated shutoff valves very close to the facility.
"We'd like one to be right on the water treatment property site so in the event of an emergency we know exactly where it is and it's faster for them to react to and another one directly across the river," Jacobson said.
Because hazardous liquid pipelines in Oregon are not regulated by municipalities or the state government and are instead monitored by the federal government's PHMSA, which has a Western region office in Colorado, Wilsonville likely can't force Kinder Morgan to add safety precautions to its pipeline.
Hoidal sent the letter to Kinder Morgan Aug. 25, 2016. Knapp says the City of Wilsonville took over a year to respond because of other responsibilities, it not needing "immediate attention" and due to staggered communication from Kinder Morgan.
Knapp says the City of Wilsonville does not have emergency response protocols in place in case of a leak or rupture.
"Kinder Morgan, we believe, has some kind of emergency response protocols. We are not fully cognizant of what those are or how they're triggered or who those protocols would include and we would like to understand those things because it seems like the City, the county and ODOT might be appropriate to be included on some kind of notification network if something were to occur," Knapp said prior to the meeting.
Wilsonville Public Works Director Delora Kerber says that if a pipeline rupture were to cause gasoline to seep into Wilsonville's intake facility, the City has eight backup wells that would provide water.
"We keep those exercised and tested on a regular basis so if there were any reason we couldn't produce water at the treatment plant we would rely on our backup wells," Kerber said.
And she says the City would know immediately if the intake facility is compromised.
"We have instrumentation that we (use to) monitor what is in the water, the intake, and we're able to instantaneously know if there is something in the intake pipe that could be harmful to our treatment process," she said.
Shawn M. O'Neil, a local attorney who initially discovered potential hazards and regulatory violations related to the pipeline, has been impressed with the City of Wilsonville's response to the issue.
"I would be remiss to say there hasn't been improvements because there have. I've been very impressed by the City of Wilsonville and the school district to take steps to address this issue," O'Neil said. "They've done a good job. It took a little bit of time but now they're focused."
Knapp told the Spokesman that he's seriously consider appealing to state and federal legislators for help in drafting laws to address pipeline regulations if Kinder Morgan continues to refuse to add safety valves
"I also think one mayor by himself or one city by itself is relatively less likely to achieve legislation on that scale but the fact that we have a project going that includes a multifold number of citizens' drinking water suggests that the priority and the degree to which this is a (possibility) is increased," Knapp said. "I think if we get to a point where it seems like legislation is the only avenue we would also engage city governments and county governments."
Editor's note: The original version of this story used terminology that might have made it unclear that the pipeline carries liquid gasoline. It has been changed to reflect that.