Colonial Pipeline Frequently Asked Questions
Updated December 17, 2020
At approximately 5:42 p.m. on Friday, August 14, 2020, Colonial Pipeline responded to a report of a product release near the company’s Line 1 Pipeline, which primarily transports gasoline. The affected site is located just off Huntersville-Concord Road between Lawther Road and Asbury Chapel Road.
Following this notification, Colonial shut in the pipeline in a matter of minutes and immediately dispatched crews to the site. Colonial personnel completed repairs to the pipeline on August 19 by placing a type B sleeve over the affected segment, then safely restarted the pipeline.
As we continue to respond to the incident, protecting the safety of the community and the environment are our top priorities. Colonial is committed to providing the resources necessary for site clean-up, monitoring and remediation efforts.
Has Colonial conducted any additional activities on or around the pipeline since the release?
On November 9-10, we completed the removal of the impacted pipe segment for metallurgical analysis. Advance notice of this work was provided to public safety officials, as well as impacted area homeowners, some of whom were offered temporary relocation so our operations and related traffic would not disturb them.
Representatives from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), as well as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), were on site to observe the pipe removal; the impacted pipe segment was then sent to an independent laboratory for metallurgical analysis, which is a key step in determining the cause of the release. The removal of this segment of pipe was not required, as a permanent sleeve had been installed during the initial emergency response phase of the incident. However, Colonial took this additional step as part of its commitment to further assess the cause of the release.
As of November 22, 2020, Colonial had installed 115 wells at the site as part of the response process. Colonial continues to work closely with NCDEQ on remediation at the site and we’re committed to communicating openly with all stakeholders to keep them informed of our activities, findings and progress as we continue our efforts.
Colonial will be active at this location until we are fully satisfied that the site has been properly remediated and restored.
What caused the release?
We cannot speculate at this time. Our immediate priorities have been to repair the affected pipe, safeguard the environment, and protect the health and safety of the public.
In addition to the metallurgical analysis, we are conducting a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the release and to prevent this type of incident from happening again.
Colonial’s goal is always to provide accurate information. We appreciate your patience as we continually gather more data through our work in the field. This data gathering informs our response and cleanup efforts and allows us to continue to respond to questions and concerns in a factual and data-driven way.
What is Colonial doing to protect the environment? What testing/monitoring is being conducted in the area?
Protecting the community and the environment are Colonial’s top priorities. Since we were notified of the release, Colonial has been constantly monitoring water and air quality around the site to ensure the safety of the public and response personnel.
As of November 22, 2020, Colonial had installed 115 wells at the site specifically as part of the response process.
- Of the 115 wells installed, 68 have been installed as monitoring wells, and 47 are recovery wells. Neither type of well is used for potable water.
- We are installing monitoring wells at depths of approximately 30 feet.
- The 68 monitoring wells include seven wells installed at deeper depths, in consultation with NCDEQ, as part of proactive efforts to vertically assess groundwater.
- 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 impact to surface water and no impact to drinking water wells, any municipal drinking water sources 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 North Prong of Clark Creek has not been affected by the incident. We conduct frequent visual monitoring throughout the day as well as weekly surface water sampling.
Who is Colonial working with on the response and remediation efforts?
Since the release, we have carried out activities to assess scope and develop and execute a robust response in consultation with federal & state regulatory agencies.
We are working closely with a number of federal, state and local agencies, including the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as local governments and first responders.
More than 250 people were involved in the initial response effort.
Has there been any impact to drinking water?
There have been no detections of petroleum constituents in any of the samples taken from residential water wells. Under the guidance of NCDEQ and Mecklenburg County Public Health, Colonial continues to conduct environmental checks of nearby well water and ground soil. At least 24 residential water wells have been tested for petroleum products with zero detects of petroleum constituents to date. At this time, Mecklenburg Public Health does not believe there is any threat to potable drinking water supplies nearby.
Nevertheless, as a proactive measure, we have offered to connect residents within the 1,500-foot monitoring radius established by NCDEQ to the public water system and to pay for the costs associated with doing so. While this measure is not required by NCDEQ, we want homeowners to feel comfortable with the quality and integrity of their drinking water.
Homeowners who have been offered the opportunity to connect to public water are free to decline the offer. If they do so, Colonial will continue to monitor and test their water wells, at no cost to the homeowners, for the foreseeable future.
Have the aquifer or any nearby groundwater resources been impacted?
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 impact to surface water and no impact to any municipal drinking water or sanitary lines.
Why did Colonial seal drinking water wells?
Colonial did this as a preventive measure. From a technical standpoint, we do this to further mitigate migration opportunities for product.
How long will recovery and remediation take?
At this time, as we are in the assessment and recovery 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 submitted its Initial Abatement Report (IAR) to NCDEQ on Friday, October 30, 2020. We are now working to develop a Comprehensive Site Assessment Report, and a Corrective Action Plan, both of which will be submitted to NCDEQ. We submitted our latest monthly report to NCDEQ on November 30, 2020.
How will Colonial share information with the public?
Colonial is communicating regularly with the public, especially the impacted community. We have an incident response site where we post regular updates. We have provided homeowners within a 1,500-foot radius of the release site with a Colonial employee’s phone number and have participated in town hall meetings.
Why is Colonial purchasing homes and/or property in the area going forward?
Colonial has purchased three properties in close proximity to the location to support our response and remediation efforts. Given the equipment and nature of this response, we wanted a larger area to support the monitoring and remediation equipment necessary to respond to the incident and to avoid inconveniencing homeowners for extended periods of time.
What happens to the soil affected by the product release?
Colonial work crews are removing all soil impacted by the product release in a responsible manner. We are transporting it to a company in North Carolina that specializes in recycling soil that has petroleum products in it. In the meantime, we’re bringing in locally sourced, clean soil to refill areas that were impacted.
Why did you test the wells outside of the 2,000-foot radius?
Colonial conducted a one-time sampling event at the request of the neighborhood to alleviate concerns of residents within Pavilion Estates. All six residential water wells tested in the Pavilion Estates indicated “non-detect” for gasoline or dissolved-phase gasoline components.
At this time, we have additional data and feel comfortable maintaining the 1,500-foot monitoring radius specified by NCDEQ.
What is Colonial doing to mitigate traffic issues related to response efforts?
Huntersville-Concord Road reopened to traffic in one direction (rotating flow) on Monday, August 24. However, we recognize that there may be some traffic-related issues related to our response efforts in the area, and we are working closely with local law enforcement to alleviate these issues.
Has Colonial held a public meeting either in person or online to answer questions from community residents?
Yes. Colonial Pipeline is committed to updating citizens on the steps being taken to address safety and environmental concerns. We are responding to every inquiry from residents with either a phone call, email or personal visit.
Colonial participated in City of Huntersville Town Hall meetings on August 27, September 8, and November 16 to answer questions from residents and hear from experts. More information about the Town Hall meetings can be found at https://www.huntersville.org/
We encourage all community members to visit our response website at https://sr2448.colonialresponse.com/ for the most recent status updates, video recordings of meetings with local officials and state regulators, and other crucial information.
Colonial has been in the community for over 50 years. We are committed to working to earn the trust of our neighbors back over time through our actions.
Does Colonial have protocols when responding to incidents such as this?
Colonial has carried out activities to assess scope and develop and execute a robust response in consultation with federal & state regulatory agencies.
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.
Upon confirmation of a release, Colonial initiated 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 were notified of a release.
How does Colonial approach safety?
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.
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
How often does Colonial inspect its pipelines? 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.
- Federal regulations require that pipeline right-of-ways be visually inspected 26 times per year, but Colonial inspects the right-of-ways for Lines 1 and 2 on a weekly basis.
- Also, in accordance with pipeline safety regulations, Colonial inspects Lines 1 and 2 at least once every five years using in-line-inspection tools.
- 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.
What will Colonial do to prevent this from occurring in the future?
Colonial will work with our regulators and industry partners to study this incident and determine the cause. We will take learnings from our investigations and implement measures in the future to help prevent an incident of this nature from happening again.
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.
Has Colonial met with local elected officials to discuss the release?
Yes. It is our priority to keep stakeholders informed. We recognize the importance of ensuring officials can respond to questions from their constituents with facts.
Colonial has held weekly briefings and been in regular communications with elected officials in Huntersville and Mecklenburg County since the release. We will continue 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.
Have there been any impacts to the 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.
Did Colonial use any substances with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in encapsulate used during the initial response?
No. Following this incident, the response team used a product containing 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 F-500 encapsulate used onsite can be viewed here.
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.
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 F-500 encapasulate 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.