Colonial Pipeline Frequently Asked Questions
Updated October 1, 2020
1. What happened?
At approximately 5:42 p.m. on Friday, August 14, 2020, Colonial Pipeline responded to a report of a product release near our gasoline pipeline just off Huntersville-Concord Road between Lawther Road and Asbury Chapel Road. Following this notification, the pipeline was shut down in a matter of minutes and crews were dispatched to the site. The pipeline was repaired as of
6 pm August 19, 2020.
2. How is Colonial Pipeline responding?
At the height of the response, more than 250 people were involved in the response effort.
Colonial remains committed to providing the resources necessary to continue site clean-up, monitoring and remediation efforts. Our top priorities — the safety of people and protection of the environment — remain the same as we move into ongoing monitoring and remediation.
During the response Colonial has worked with a number of federal, state, and local agencies including the Huntersville Fire and Police Departments, the City of Huntersville, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management, Mecklenburg Public Health, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ), the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
3. How long will the road remain closed?
Huntersville-Concord Road reopened to traffic in one direction (rotating flow) on Monday, August 24.
4. What is Colonial doing to monitor drinking water quality and ensure the safety of residents?
Colonial is steadfast in our incident response priorities – the safety of people, environmental protection, respect for community assets, and communication – and we are committed to sharing information about the incident and our remediation efforts with residents, regulators, and the broader public on an ongoing basis.
Our environmental and remediation efforts are being conducted under the guidance of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). As of Friday September 11, a fourth round of residential water well sampling was completed last week for homes within a 1,500-foot radius of the incident location, which is the monitoring radius established by NCDEQ.
We want to assure the community that there have been no detections of any petroleum constituents in any of the samples that we have taken from any of the residential water wells.
Nevertheless, as a proactive measure, we have offered to connect residents within the 1,500-foot radius to the public water system and to pay for the costs associated with doing so. We are not required by NCDEQ, or any other government or regulatory agency, to take this step; however, it is consistent with our proactive and conservative response to the incident, as well as with our company values and our commitment to the community. Homeowners who have been offered the opportunity to connect to public water are free to decline the offer, and if they do so, Colonial will continue to monitor and test their water wells, at no cost to the homeowners, for the foreseeable future.
We continue to update NCDEQ, and Mecklenburg Public Health of our testing process and test results. At this time, Mecklenburg Public Health does not believe there is any threat to any potable drinking water supplies.
5. What has Colonial been doing to protect the environment?
Colonial shut down its pipeline in a matter of minutes after the release was confirmed and immediately initiated efforts to contain and collect any product released from the pipeline. Most of the product was captured as it was being released.
Colonial Pipeline has been monitoring water and air quality around the site since the release on August 14, to ensure the safety of the public and response personnel. Impacted soil from the incident site is also being removed for proper disposal.
Almost immediately following the release, Colonial took proactive steps to protect the closest surface waters, the North Prong of Clark Creek. To date, there are no known petroleum impacts to the creek, and we continue to monitor it in conjunction with local and state agencies.
Colonial will provide updates and environmental data to NCDEQ, as part of the ongoing response.
6. What is Colonial doing to monitor long-term environmental impacts?
We are committed to monitoring the site for any long-term environmental impacts. We are currently developing our monitoring plan under the guidance of the NCDEQ.
7. What precautions do you have in place to prevent this type of thing from happening?
Colonial invests a significant amount of resources on system integrity each year.
We have a robust safety and inspection program that includes the use of technology that travels through the pipeline to detect anomalies. We also inspect all of our rights-of-way regularly.
8. What is Colonial doing to keep the community informed? How can concerned citizens reach Colonial Pipeline?
Colonial remains committed to communicating with concerned citizens, local leaders and regulatory agencies. We continue to provide updates through our response website at http://sr2448.colonialresponse.com.
Residents are welcome to submit questions to Colonial through the site, and a Colonial representative will respond.
Additionally, Colonial continues direct outreach to landowners in the 2,000-foot radius of the site and is engaging with numerous local, state and federal agencies including:
- Huntersville Fire and Police Departments
The City of Huntersville
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management
Mecklenburg Public Health
Mecklenburg County Parks & Recreation
- The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety
The United States Environmental Protection Agency
9. Is this related to the work that was done in the area six weeks ago?
No. That work was part of Colonial’s ongoing, proactive pipeline maintenance program.
10. Colonial Pipeline has said they are monitoring and testing wells. Is Colonial Pipeline also monitoring creeks in the area?
Yes, Colonial Pipeline successfully implemented proactive measures to protect the closest surface waters, the North Prong of Clark Creek. The creek was unaffected, and we will continue to monitor the situation under the under the guidance of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
11. What caused the leak and what steps are being taken to ensure future leaks do not happen?
Colonial Pipeline will conduct a full investigation, working with our regulators as needed, to determine the cause of the release and cannot speculate at this time. Our focus has been on repairing the site while ensuring the safety of the public, responders and the environment. Now that the repair is complete, we are working on further incident analysis, site remediation and ongoing monitoring under the direction of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and in collaboration with other local agencies.
12. Will Colonial Pipeline hold a public meeting either in person or online to answer questions from community residents?
Colonial Pipeline is committed to updating citizens on the steps being taken to address safety and environmental concerns. We are working closely with a wide range of local, state and federal agencies and providing them with information that can then be shared with their constituents. A video recording of a meeting with Colonial representatives, the Town of Huntersville Mayor, Mecklenburg County Emergency Management, and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) was posted and distributed on August 22. The video is available for view on the Huntersville’s town website, as well as Colonial’s response website.
Colonial is providing the most current update at https://sr2448.colonialresponse.com/ and we are responding to every inquiry from residents with either a phone call, email or personal visit.
Colonial participated in a City of Huntersville Town Hall meeting on Thursday, August 27 meeting to answer questions from residents and hear from experts. More information about the Town Hall meeting can be found at https://www.huntersville.org/
13. What happens to the gasoline recovered at the leak site?
The majority of gasoline has been recovered via industrial vacuum trucks. It has been transported and stored at a holding facility. The product is tested for quality. If it does not meet proper specifications, it is then transported to a refinery for reprocessing.
14. What is happening with the soil contaminated by the leak?
Colonial work crews are removing all soil impacted by the product release. We are transporting it to a company in North Carolina that specializes in recycling soil that has petroleum products in it. We will bring in locally sourced clean soil to refill the areas that were impacted.
15. How much petroleum was released and how much has been recovered?
Colonial now estimates that approximately 6,490 barrels of gasoline were released from the pipeline during the incident, and approximately half of the released amount has been recovered to date. These numbers, which are still an estimate, are based on additional data that Colonial has obtained and analyzed over the course of the last several weeks. The numbers may need to be revised again as the remediation project continues, and we are committed to keeping the public informed.
16. How much petroleum is still in the ground or has reached the groundwater and/or aquifer?
At this time, all residential water wells tested have indicated “non-detect” for gasoline or petroleum products.
As reported by Mecklenburg County officials, there has been no invasion of surface water and no impact to any municipal drinking water or sanitary lines.
We are still in the assessment phase of our activities and will be providing updates to our regulators and response partners as information is confirmed.
17. Why did you test the wells outside of the 2,000 foot radius?
This was a one-time sampling event conducted at the request of the neighborhood to alleviate concerns of residents within Pavilion Estates. At that time we accommodated the request; however at this time, we have additional data and feel comfortable maintaining the 1,500 radius provided to us by the DEQ.
All six residential water wells tested in the Pavilion Estates have indicated “non-detect” for gasoline or dissolved-phase gasoline components.
18. How old are the pipelines that pass through Huntersville?
Our pipeline system has been providing a critical service, transporting fuel supplies to the East Coast, and in this area for more than 50 years.
19. How many releases has Colonial experienced in Mecklenburg County and the state of North Carolina since building this pipeline?
We do everything we can to prevent incidents, and when the do occur, we respond quickly, work with our regulators on remediation and take an in-depth look at each incident to identify opportunities to improve.
We report releases to the National Response Center (NRC) and the Pipeline Hazardous Material and Safety Administration (PHMSA) per regulatory guidelines. That information is publicly available via their websites.
20. Who scripted, edited and paid for the video that Colonial and the Town of Huntersville taped in a closed meeting on Friday and released this week?
In light of COVID-19 and Colonial’s rigorous safety policies to protect essential employees, Huntersville Mayor John Annarella suggested that creating a video might be a good way to update the full community and address some of the issues and concerns he was hearing from area residents.
Colonial Pipeline agreed and invited Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management and the NCDEQ to participate as well. The questions addressed during the Q&A session were submitted to the Mayor’s Office and Colonial Pipeline. Colonial paid for the production of the video as part of our community outreach efforts.
21. What offers of payment, goods, equipment and services has Colonial made to the Town of Huntersville, Mecklenburg County or the state of North Carolina since the spill?
Colonial Pipeline will be compensating the Huntersville Fire Department for all personnel and resources used during this response. Additionally, we plan to establish a partnership with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation and Oehler Nature Preserve as part of our ongoing Environmental Partners Program.
22. What testing/monitoring is being conducted in the area?
Water. Colonial continues to conduct environmental checks of nearby well water and ground soil, under the guidance of NCDEQ and Mecklenburg County Public Health. As many as 24 residential water wells have been tested for petroleum products with zero detects of petroleum constituents to date. We will continue to share results with individual land owners and Mecklenburg County Public Health.
As of Saturday, September 12, 2020, Colonial had installed 77 wells at the site specifically as part of the response process.
- Of the 77 wells installed, 47 have been installed as monitoring wells, and 30 are recovery wells. Neither are used for potable water.
- When Colonial encounters product in a monitoring well, product recovery begins immediately in an effort to control and limit any further migration. Colonial also is supplementing our current recovery systems with additional technologies.
Surface water sampling continues to be conducted weekly and after any qualifying storm events.
As reported by Mecklenburg County officials, there has been no invasion of surface water and no impact to any municipal drinking water or sanitary lines.
Colonial has successfully implemented proactive measures to protect the closest surface waters, the North Prong of Clark Creek. These are precautionary measures and we continue to monitor the situation closely as we work with local and state resources. The creek is currently unaffected. We conduct frequent visual monitoring throughout the day as well as weekly surface water sampling.
23. How was Colonial notified of this release, and what actions were taken?
Colonial has a comprehensive approach to pipeline safety to prevent and identify potential pipeline releases, including:
- Aerial and foot patrols along the right-of-way.
- A 24/7 control center that electronically monitors our pipelines.
- Participation in the 811/one call system.
- A public awareness program that provides pipeline safety information and keeps stakeholders informed.
- An integrity management program that inspects both the interior and exterior of the pipelines. .
- A Safety Management System (SMS) that is integrated throughout the company Based on standards developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and peer pipeline operators, Colonial’s SMS provides a framework that drives continuous improvement and excellence in safety.
- Extensive employee training and a contractor safety program.
We meet or exceed all industry and regulatory standards for these programs.
In the Huntersville case, two people riding ATVs noticed a liquid on the ground and the smell of gasoline. A Colonial Pipeline employee was notified, and upon confirming the release, contacted the Control Center which initiated the shutdown of the pipeline.
Upon confirmation of a release, Colonial initiates additional incident response protocols to control the flow of product and begin active recovery. Our employees and contractors are highly trained and activated as soon as we are notified of a release.
Colonial uses the “Incident Command System,” a standardized hierarchical structure that allows for a cooperative response by multiple agencies, to organize, manage, and coordinate response activities.
24. What is the nature of the work performed a few weeks ago northeast of where the pipeline crosses Hiwassee?
This work took place approximately 1.25 miles downstream from the SR-2448 site. This was routine, proactive maintenance as part of meeting our stringent safety standards.
25. How many private meetings has Colonial had with elected Huntersville officials since this spill?
It is our priority to ensure we keep stakeholders informed. Briefings have been held to ensure officials can respond to their constituents with facts.
Colonial has held briefings and has had ongoing communication with a number of elected Huntersville and Mecklenburg County officials since the release, and continues to keep them updated on our response and remediation efforts and to ensure they are equipped with the facts to respond to inquiries from local residents.
We believe this collaborative approach is essential in working together to effectively respond.
26. How long on average does it take to fully remediate a spill of this size?
At this time, as we are in the assessment phase, it would be premature to provide an estimate on the timeline. We are committed to restoring the area and are working in coordination with the NCDEQ to develop a formal plan.
Colonial is working to develop and submit an Initial Abatement Report, Comprehensive Site Assessment Report, and a Corrective Action Plan to NCDEQ.
27. What would Colonial do differently in the future to prevent a similar event in Mecklenburg County again and how would you respond differently in reacting to the spill?
Colonial will work with our regulators and industry partners to study this incident and determine the cause. We will learn from this incident and implement measures in the future to help prevent an incident of this nature from happening again.
28. What products are in Colonial’s pipelines that run through the Huntersville area?
Colonial operates two refined petroleum products pipelines through the Huntersville area. As part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, these pipelines are essential to the fuel supply of many states across the Southeast and the East Coast, including North Carolina. Colonial’s Line 1, which is the line from which the release occurred, transports primarily gasoline. Line 2 transports diesel fuel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S military.
29. What information can you provide regarding Colonial’s approach to safety?
Colonial is committed to protecting the safety of the public and the environment. Our Safety Management System is focused on continuous improvement and integrating safety into every aspect of our operations.
Detailed information regarding Colonial’s safety-related practices, including our Safety Data Sheet, can be found on Colonial’s public website.
- Pipeline Safety Brochure
- Gasoline Safety Data Sheet
- Community Safety and Public Awareness
- System Safety and Integrity
- Commitment to Continuous Improvement
30. How often is the pipeline inspected? What do you do to ensure the pipeline remains in safe operating condition?
Colonial inspects its pipelines in a variety of ways on a schedule that meets, and in many cases exceeds, all regulatory requirements.
- The right-of-ways for Lines 1 and 2 are visually inspected by piloted aircraft on a weekly basis. This schedule far exceeds federal requirements, which only require that pipeline right-of-ways be inspected 26 times per year.
- Also, in alignment with pipeline safety regulations, Colonial inspects Lines 1 and 2 at least once every five years using in-line-inspection tools or “Smart Pigs.” These highly-advanced tools travel through the system to inspect it from the inside out. The “smart pigs” use a variety of technologies, one of which is similar to what doctors use for ultrasounds. The different technologies collect and deliver data on the condition of the pipeline, which Colonial engineers then analyze to help Colonial determine whether additional actions or maintenance on the pipelines may be needed.
For more information on Colonial’s safety and system integrity program, click here.
31. What is Colonial’s commitment to alleviating concerns about drinking water?
Colonial samples residential water wells as part of our monitoring activities. We want to assure the community that, at this time, none of the data has indicated any detections of petroleum constituents in any of those residential water wells.
Colonial is committed to continuing to work with residents within the 1,500-foot radius of the release site to address their concerns. This monitoring radius was determined by the NCDEQ and ensures that we are closely monitoring the area closest to the site. If data indicates a need to expand the residential well sampling radius at any point in the future, Colonial will adjust as needed under the guidance of the NCDEQ.
32. Who is accountable for remediating and protecting Oehler Nature Preserve?
Colonial is committed to meeting all state standards as established by the NCDEQ for site remediation. We will continue to work with local partners to fully remediate the Oehler Nature Preserve and will expand area partnerships as part of our ongoing Environmental Partners Program.
33. What are the depths of monitoring wells?
We are installing monitoring wells at depths of approximately 30 feet.
34. What is the purpose of the 30-Day PHMSA Report that Colonial filed on September 13?
Colonial is steadfast in our commitment to remediating and restoring the incident site and impacted area, and for delivering on our commitment to the local community. Regulatory reporting is one way Colonial updates its regulators on the incident and the progress we are making. We are also dedicating the necessary resources and doing what is needed to ensure the ongoing safety, environmental remediation and engagement of stakeholders.
On September 13, Colonial filed a 30-day report with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). PHMSA, which is the agency responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally-sound operation of the United States’ 2.6 million mile pipeline transportation system, which includes Colonial’s pipelines. The report that Colonial provided to PHMSA contained information and data that was not available to Colonial when we made our initial report of the incident to the National Reporting Center (NRC), and, as the report states, the cause of the release still is being determined.
35. The 30-Day PHMSA Report Colonial filed on September 13 says the release occurred at a previously repaired segment of pipe. Did this cause the release in Huntersville on August 14?
As mentioned in the PHMSA report, the cause of the release in Huntersville is still being determined.
Colonial uses advanced in-line inspection tools, known as “smart pigs” to routinely examine our 5,500 mile pipeline network. These tools travel through the pipelines and help Colonial inspect, analyze and engage in proactive maintenance.
In 2004 an anomaly in this section of the pipeline was identified during a “smart pig” inspection. Colonial excavated, inspected the pipe, and installed a repair known as a “sleeve” to reinforce the pipe. There was no release of product when the sleeve was installed.
At this time, Colonial is continuing its focus on assessment and environmental remediation activities. Additionally, Colonial’s on-going investigation will soon move into the technical phase, which will include a laboratory assessment and detailed analysis of the pipeline segment.
36. Is the mailing sent by Colonial to area residents recently related to the release?
No, it is not specifically related to the release. Colonial provides pipeline safety information on an annual basis to residents, businesses, schools, elected officials, emergency officials, and excavators in close proximity to our pipelines as part of meeting our federal “Public Awareness” requirements. Residents new to the area or new residential construction may be receiving the information for the first time, and will receive it each year going forward.
37. How is Colonial responding to questions regarding the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in encapsulate used during the initial response?
Recently, the question was raised regarding the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in encapsulate used during the initial response to mitigate the threat from possible vapors and ignition source during work activity. According to the EPA, PFAS can be found in a variety of substances including food packaging, equipment that has previously used PFAS, commercial household products, the workplace, drinking water, living organisms, and firefighting foams. For more information about PFAS see the EPA website.
In this incident, the product used was F-500 encapsulate agent, which is commonly used to extinguish fires and to control fumes. According to the manufacturer, the F-500 encapsulate agent utilized at the SR-2448 location does not contain PFAS. The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the PFAS used onsite can be viewed here.
We will continue to work with the NDCEQ to identify any source of PFAS cross-contamination found in testing at the incident site.