At the latest meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee this week, Doug Beck with Phillips 66 Pipeline gave a presentation about the pipelines in the area and the dangers of digging before calling 811.
The LEPC is made up of local hospital personnel, oil and gas company personnel, first responders, environmental company personnel and elected officials, and develops an emergency response plan to protect the public from disasters.
“The LEPC is here for local businesses and corporations, small and large, to get together and talk because we’d rather have the relationships built before an emergency happens, rather than have to build those relationships during the emergency,” Parker County Emergency Management Coordinator/Fire Marshal Sean Hughes said. “We meet quarterly and there are some requirements for corporations and businesses to participate, especially those that deal with hazardous materials or chemicals. We have a single LEPC across the county and we’re required to meet twice a year, but we’ve decided to meet four times a year to help improve that networking.”
Beck went over the importance of calling 811 before digging, whether planting a tree or digging foundation, to ensure the location of underground utility lines.
“In 2017, there were 437,000 underground utilities that were hit in the United States — that’s gas, water, oil, sewer, communications, electrical — and it’s happened in Parker County. How many people plant rose bushes in their yard or trees in their yard and never call 811? That’s what causes those disasters,” Beck said. “The plumbing industry is a huge problem with Texas Gas right now. They go to clean out a sewer line that’s clogged up and all of a sudden there’s a gas line there and they’ve punched a hole through it and now it fills up the sewer line and spreads throughout the sewer system that can cause explosions all over the place.”
Hughes said it’s important for people to know where underground utilities are so they don’t construct something that may have be demolished in order to get to an underground line.
“I think sometimes we get a little complacent because we don’t see things happening, we don’t see a leak or sometimes we just forget there’s stuff in the ground. It’s important that we remember to make that phone call before we dig for anything,” Hughes said. “I put a building up at my house a few years back and I did the 811 call and had them come out and highlight everything. You don’t want to build something, let’s say a shop, over someone’s right of way and they have to demolish it when they have to replace a line.”
Beck said one thing the oil and gas industry suffers with is wildfires and controlled burns.
“The fire that happened over in Aledo, burned across I-20 and everything, we would like to be part of that process,” Beck said. “Texas811 has a process for this that came up after the Bastrop fires in 2011, you can call them and say you want to do a controlled burn in this area, you give them the information and they send out information to all of the oil and gas companies. We get the tickets and we can work with them.”
Digging a fire trench can lead to disaster, Beck said.
“Imagine [a natural gas pipeline] getting hit the same time that fire’s going, not only is the guy dead that’s on the tractor that’s cutting that fire trench, but wouldn’t it have been nice to know ahead of time what was out there? And how you can plan your responses?” Beck said. “It’s a team effort out here and that’s all I’m trying to say and there are ways we can work better together.”