PG&E says East Palo Alto pipeline is OKBy Bonnie Eslinger
A natural gas pipeline in East Palo Alto that showed up on PG&E's top 100 list of highest-risk segments has been inspected and does not need to be repaired or replaced, the utility told city officials.
PG&E completed an engineering review of the 18-foot segment, located near Dumbarton Avenue and Donahoe Street, wrote Ashlie Simpson, a government relations official for the utility, in a Nov. 2 letter to interim City Manager ML Gordon.
"Based on an improved understanding of the pipe properties as a result of this review ... PG&E has determined that no repair, replacement or other action is warranted," she wrote.
Simpson noted that the next assessment for "external corrosion" on the segment is proposed for 2011. It was last assessed in 2006.
The letter was a follow-up to meetings the utility held with East Palo Alto officials in September. PG&E released a list of its highest-risk segments in the wake of a natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and destroyed 35 homes.
According to PG&E, the 100 segments were flagged for a possible combination of reasons, including their potential for damage due to corrosion, proximity to construction projects, seismic concerns, age, design, proximity to high density populations and potential reliability impacts.
When the list was made public, the utility neglected to make contact with East Palo Alto, as it had with other cities on the Top 100. It had mistakenly identified the East Palo Alto pipeline as being in Menlo Park.
Troubled by the error, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, contacted PG&E CEO Peter Darbee, and eventually the utility delivered a public apology to the East Palo Alto City Council.
Gordon said while he appreciated the Nov. 2 follow-up letter, he still has questions he wants to ask PG&E at a meeting that has yet to be scheduled.
"Do we take their word that they did a complete assessment review?" Gordon asked. "How did they arrive at this assessment?"
East Palo Alto resident Cynthia O'Donnell has the same question. She lives two doors away from the segment, which is marked by metal ground-level doors on a street corner.
O'Donnell has seen PG&E employees doing work at the site recently but still isn't reassured.
"How do I know they investigated it that well?" she asked.
In addition to meeting with city officials, PG&E has also been in talks with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which covers East Palo Alto. At the district's request, the utility provided fire officials with a map of all PG&E pipelines running through the city, said fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
Fire dispatch recordings from the San Bruno disaster show that firefighters initially thought the Sept. 9 explosion was caused by a plane crash.
"The fire department didn't know what it was, because it didn't know that gas line was there," Schapelhouman said.
Copyright ©2010 Palo Alto Daily News. Published 11/12/2010.