Trans-Sierra Pipeline failed in ’97, just a stone’s throw from the current spill |

Trans-Sierra Pipeline failed in ’97, just a stone’s throw from the current spill

The break on the trans-Sierra pipeline isn’t the first time Universal Environmental has cleaned up a fuel spill on Donner Summit.

The company was deployed to the area in 1997, when the same pipeline burst just 40 feet away from this month’s leak.

At that time, the 40-year-old line was owned by Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline. In 2000, Santa Fe sold the line ” which transports fuel from the Bay Area, over Donner Summit, to Northern Nevada ” to Kinder Morgan, one of the nation’s largest fuel transportation and storage companies.

The ’97 spill was larger than the recent incident. Santa Fe had to monitor the water for years and pay a settlement to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and Department of Fish and Game.

The proximity in time and location of the two spills has raised questions about the strength of the pipeline, which was built in the late 1950s. Kinder Morgan spokesman Rainey said the age of the pipeline doesn’t necessarily indicate the condition of the pipe.

“Provided that we do routine inspections … pipelines can last indefinitely,” he said.

At this point, water quality officials don’t anticipate any enforcement against Kinder Morgan for this spill, said Chris Stetler, senior engineer with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. However, the incident has raised questions about the future of the pipeline, which will likely be answered in the coming months.

“We want to find out: Is this going to happen again?” Stetler said. “We can ask [Kinder Morgan] to give us a full report and analysis of the pipeline. My guess is that this kind of occurrence is very expensive for a company.”

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