February 2018

Pipeline Water Dump Prompts Protests

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Connor Gildea, an environmental specialist for the gas pipeline project, checks the ID tag on one of the new plantings just north of Mountain Road. In early November, dozens of native saplings and bushes were set on the right of way at this road crossing after the pipeline trench was filled, graded, and seeded. Some additional landscape work awaits the spring.

Photo by Lester Smith

Connor Gildea, an environmental specialist for the gas pipeline project, checks the ID tag on one of the new plantings just north of Mountain Road. In early November, dozens of native saplings and bushes were set on the right of way at this road crossing after the pipeline trench was filled, graded, and seeded. Some additional landscape work awaits the spring.

Action along the new natural gas pipeline through Suffield has been quiet since the line went into use at the start of November. By then the restoration of the landscape was largely complete as well. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company advises that the two long stretches of black plastic silt fence flanking the right of way will be removed in the spring, and some additional landscape work is planned, including a few lingering landowner complaints. The company will also honor its long term commitments to the environment agreed upon with the Army Corps of Engineers.

But a planned event in Agawam prompted angry complaints by residents and authorities there and got the attention of the Federal EPA. Picketers protested on Route 75 in front of the Tennessee Gas compressor station.

According to online news from WNPR, MassLive, and NEPR, what happened was this: As reported in the December/January issue of The Suffield Observer, the new pipeline segment laid alongside the old line crossing Suffield was subjected to hydrotesting in late October. Some 16,000 gallons of water was then stored in a large tank at the Agawam compressor station at the northern end of the new line, just north of the Suffield state line near Hickory Street. Reports say that the water contained “a number of potentially dangerous chemicals.”

The pipeline company advises that they intended the water to be trucked off for appropriate disposal and instructed Henkels & McCoy, their construction contractor, accordingly. But when a tank truck arrived to begin taking the water away, the trucker found the tank empty. On November 20, all the water had been released into “a vegetated area” on the grounds of the compressor station. The EPA became concerned that the water may have found its way into a nearby brook and affected a cold water fishery, but Tennessee said that it had just soaked into the ground, and the company “did not observe any environmental damage” from the dumping.

An EPA official said it’s not clear whether the agency will take any action against the pipeline company, but according to NEPR, U. S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts have “pressed federal regulators for more information about the incident.”

This reporter’s request for a comment from the pipeline company’s Houston headquarters received a “no comment” response.


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