A multi-agency Unified Command (consisting of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and Kinder Morgan) has assumed all planning and operations to mitigate the estimated 31,500 to 42,000 gallons of petroleum that remains underground beneath the San Ramon Channel. (As of Dec. 23, an estimated 347 barrels (14,574 gallons) of product has been recovered).
The health and safety of the community residents, the environment, and crew members onsite remains the top priority of all regulatory agencies and Kinder Morgan.
Unified Command has established the following mitigating measures to ensure public safety.
• Community air monitoring has been conducted around-the-clock since the onset of the response by CTEH Environmental Services, a third-party contractor specializing in industrial health and safety and air monitoring activities during emergencies. U.S. EPA resources have supplemented air monitoring activities.
• No hazardous readings have been measured in public areas. The real-time air monitoring program evaluates the explosive hazard as well as chemicals of concern for human health.
• A Unified Command-approved comprehensive air monitoring plan has been implemented, with site-specific action levels, to evaluate risks to the community.
• The standards established for the community monitoring vary by chemical constituent, but in general are conservative values which are based on the EPA’s Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGL) program.
• Worksite air monitoring utilizes the threshold limit values (TLV) and short-term exposure limits (STEL) established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). For example, the action level for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a 30-ppm reading sustained for 5 minutes, which will triggers the action to measure for other constituents. Separate work zone-related action levels have been established in the direct vicinity of where crews are working in the channel.
• Worker health and safety is continuously being evaluated. You may see workers wearing various forms of personal protective equipment (including respirators) to ensure their safety.
• To date, over 5,000 air monitoring readings in the community have been obtained. No detectable levels of explosivity oof any chemical constituent
have been detected.
• Daily liaison updates, provided Mondays through Saturdays, will include airmonitoring summaries.
•Access is controlled and limited in the immediate vicinity of the work zone to protect safety of responders and the public.
• Equipment and vehicles within the work area are carefully evaluated and controlled to not introduce an ignition hazard due to the proximity to the petroleum product being recovered. This process includes instrumentation that is intrinsically safe for use in explosive environments and materials selection to mitigate the concern for static charge (e.g., no plastic pipes).
• Diesel powered vehicles enter the channel only after real-time air monitoring has confirmed conditions are safe to do so.
• Petroleum product expressing itself through the channel bottom is captured using absorbent pads and booms to minimize surface area of exposure and volatilization as vapors.
• Specific activities within the incident response area are also carefully selected to mitigate any explosivity concerns. For instance, rigorous safety measures are being implemented with concrete coring, which provides access to petroleum product beneath the channel floor so that it may be removed. The equipment selected for this purpose utilizes a remote hydraulically powered coring machine that operates at slow speed using diamond cutting heads while presenting a complete flood of water at the coring point to mitigate any ignition hazard when in contact with petroleum product.
• Vapor recovery of subsurface soil gas using powerful vacuum equipment to reduce the concentration of vapors is ongoing. The presence of high concentration vapors in the subsurface is not uncommon in release incidents since it is near the petroleum source material. However, there are no ignition sources present below the channel nor adequate void space within this gravel layer to allow for a fire condition. Additionally, utility surveys have been performed to identify and monitor any other paths of migration away from the San Ramon Bypass Channel corridor.
• The work zones are continuously monitored for worker and community safety and health.
• A daily health and safety meeting is performed prior to all work activities.
• Crews are following CDC requirements by adhering to COVID-19 prevention measures including wearing face coverings, enhanced cleaning protocols forequipment, personal hygiene and handwashing, limiting site access and screening for COVID-19 symptoms.
Ongoing Site Assessment Activities to Evaluate Extent:
• Collection and evaluation of all subsurface utility maps.
• Evaluation of the topography and hydrogeology of the area.
• Collection of soil and ground water samples and submittal of samples for laboratory analysis.
• Permitting has been initiated and access agreements will be executed to further install soil borings and ground water monitoring wells to determine the vertical and horizontal extent of the impacts.
• Gasoline is a conglomeration of chemicals. Some of those chemicals have very low odor thresholds – parts per billion or parts per trillion range. Although the nose detects it and tells the brain it is gasoline, it is not at a level that would be of a health concern.
• Gasoline is a highly flammable product and its vapors may be toxic to birds and mammals at high concentrations.
• Four dead minnows were recovered in the work area on Tuesday, December 22. Cause of death is undetermined at this time, but a full assessment of spill-related mortality will be conducted once the spill is over. Crews are on scene monitoring for further impacts to wildlife.
2004 Pipeline Incident in Walnut Creek:
• On Nov. 9, 2004, a third-party crew with a backhoe installing a water-district main near Newell Ave. and South Broadway in Walnut Creek, CA, punctured a high- pressure products pipeline. The resulting explosion killed 5 construction workers and injured 4 others.
• The 2004 and 2020 incidents are not related. The 2004 incident was instantaneous.
• It was later found that the backhoe was too close to the pipeline because pre- project planning did not detect a bend in the line to accommodate a tree, which had since been cut down.
• CalOSHA, the state workplace safety regulator, found that Kinder Morgan had failed to mark a bend in the Walnut Creek line and found the company at fault.
• The 2020 impacted pipeline segment has been repaired and tested, and with the approval of the California State Fire Marshall, was placed back in service on Dec. 9, 2020.
• Current operations to recover the product are carefully designed by Unified Command to minimize impact with stringent safety protocols.
Pipeline Integrity Management:
• As part of this incident, a thorough review of the pipeline segment is ongoing, with oversight from all applicable regulatory authorities. On Dec. 9, 2020, the State Fire Marshal conducted an assessment and concluded that it was safe to operate the line with a 20% pressure reduction in our MAOP (Maximum Allowed Operating Pressure).
• Kinder Morgan has committed to long-term remedial efforts.
• A Surface Water Sampling Program, Supply Well and Utility Corridor Assessment, Groundwater Characterization Work Plan, and Soil Vapor Delineation and Threat Assessment Work Plan have been requested by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.
• To address concerns of potentially impacted well water contamination, nearby residents’ wells will be tested and lab analysis results provided.
Who to contact:
• For additional information and to subscribe to regular email updates, contact the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR), OSPRliaison@wildlife.ca.gov
• To report possible damages, please call 1-877-952-3317.