Consider the Very Large Pipelines Planned for WV

by S. Tom Bond on March 15, 2015

Buckhannon - Upshur High School

The Safety Aspect of Very Large Pipelines

From Kevin Campbell (background below) as told to S. Thomas Bond

Although Marcellus drilling in Upshur county has been light, I worked for a while driving chemical (HCl) trucks from a hydrochloric acid tank on the banks of the creek in Anmoore, Harrison County, to wells being drilled in Doddridge County. I have taken as much as 4,000 gallons of HCl to one site in one day. You have to have a special license to drive chemical trucks. After that, I drove an EMT vehicle in Doddridge. Today I am with the Adrian Fire Department.

When I saw where the pipeline was going I began to think about how that would affect emergency response. The most conspicuous thing is how near it comes to Buckhannon-Upshur High School, about one-half mile. It also travels very close to several populated areas. Fire departments wouldn’t be able to get equipment to within two miles because of the heat.

These 42 inch pipelines are new to the United States. They have had them in Canada and elsewhere for some time. The engineering details are well known. For example they operate at a maximum allowed pressure of 1440 psi, almost 100 times atmospheric pressure. Then with a hole four times in diameter the thickness of the pipe would cause the pipe to rupture like a balloon, digging a trench along the pipeline hundreds of feet long.

The fire will burn for days, because the distance between the valves to shut off flow are many many miles away. If a valve doesn’t work (as happened at Sissonville in December 2012), it continues to burn longer because the available gas burns until it is gone.

The explosion itself affects things out to one-quarter mile. That is four times the 100 yards of a football field. Technically, this is called the “blast zone.” No fire yet. When the outer edge of the gas, mixing with air around it, gets to 15% gas it can explode. Mixtures between 5 and 15% gas can burn – explosively. Any spark will do this, EVEN TURNING ON A CELL PHONE. They recommend you retreat when you smell even a small gas leak until you are well away from it before using a cellphone.

An exploding gas line, where the gas keeps rolling out under pressure requires you to go a huge distance – and don’t use a gasoline vehicle. Don’t start a diesel because the starter system can ignite the gas cloud.  If you need to flee the area, you need to do it safely; your information is valuable to responders. The probability of a large gas-air mixture not catching fire is almost zero. Static electricity or transformers if close enough can also be an ignition source.

When the fireball occurs, the heat and radiation will fry almost everything within half a mile almost instantly and set all flammables on fire. When it has burned for a few minutes, the heat and radiation will set things on fire within a mile or more depending on flammability and conditions -wet or dry, but deep snow is best. If it occurs in a drought, there may be a 15 mile perimeter to contain.

In the event the pipe line bursts anywhere near the high school, the road from Buckhannon to Adrian will be closed off by the fire. Both units would be called, as will may others from a great distance around for a fire of that size.  Essentially nobody has any training in such fires, nor do they have appropriate equipment. The terrain around the high school is typical West Virginia landscape, i.e., steep and forested usually with deep mud impassable to typical fire trucks, which are designed to travel hard roads. Anytime it rains and all the time in winter, most of the landscape is not accessible to fire trucks.

And what about the drilling trucks and road damage? I remember driving the EMT vehicles great convoys of trucks that slowed down traffic – of course we had to travel with them because much of the way on crooked roads we couldn’t pass. At times the road speed of 55 was reduced to 35 because of road damage, and sometimes it wasn’t safe to travel more than 20 miles an hour. I hate to admit it, but we lost several patients by having to go so slow.

And think of all the unpaved roads where people live, where fire trucks offer little protection for them. In Canada they have much better laws for big pipelines. They have some experience and proper engineering. They need a 3 kilometer uninhabited corridor for a 42 inch (one meter) line. And the company must pay for damage when there is an explosion.

Do you think an insurance company will pay for an “accident” involving hundreds of kids, practically the whole population of Upshur County of a certain age, hundreds of cars and a multiple million dollar school complex? Of course, the company would be considered a self-insured entity, which offers no protection for the community in case of a catastrophic event. How do you think the executives and stockholders would react knowing this? Would they want to “do the right thing.”

I have noticed that there is a water tank between the pipeline route and the school, so they would instantly lose their reserve supply of water for fire fighting.  In that spot, within a quarter more or half mile, it would not be possible to protect oneself from the fireball or get away as the 42 inch gas line would be too close.  They would simply fry in place.  And the secondary blast is much bigger than the first blast.

Local “hazmat” (hazardous materials) teams are not adapted to fighting this kind of fire, nor can the teams that put out well fires do it either. The scale is just too large and the effects too quick. The fire will continue to burn for days. A fire like that couldn’t be fought with “water bombers,” like they use for forest fires in the West. (These are airplanes which can fly low over a body of water and pick up water directly from the surface, then fly and dump it on the forest fire. West Virginia doesn’t have bodies of water large enough and suitable for airplanes to fly down and pick up the water, nor does it have any water bombers.)

The bottom line is that the people planning these large pipelines seem to consider ordinary people to be expendable.  They seem to considersuch projects to be worth the risk to achieve their financial and personal objectives. Even a lot of people and important facilities such as the high school seem to be worth the “slight” risk involved.

>>> Kevin Campbell was a marine electrical engineer in Florida for many years. He worked on a team of industry leaders to develop the standards for marine electrical systems, which later became U.S. Coast Guard standards. After his wife died, he looked for a new place and change of lifestyle, one of peace and quiet. He was attracted to WV by the kindness of a state policeman and a courtesy car operator who helped him on the Turnpike. He found a suitable building for his equipment, and a good place to live, in Adrian, WV. He is currently an EMT, volunteer firefighter (since 2008), SUBA’s representative to the Upshur County CVB, a board member and former president of the Upshur County CVB.


Pipeline Informational Meeting Coming Up March 28 in Buckhannon

Saturday, March 28, at 1:00 p.m. at the American Legion building on Kanawha Street in Buckhannon, the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, together with the Greenbrier River Watershed Association, will be holding another public meeting regarding several large pipelines proposed to cross through many West Virginia counties. This meeting is presented with the needs of the community in mind and is designed to provide information and knowledge over and above that presented at the industry-sponsored open houses.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a 42″ pipeline, will directly affect Harrison, Lewis, Pocahontas, Randolph, and Upshur Counties in WV. This high-pressure pipeline would cross several main roads, waterways, and sensitive forest areas, including Route 20 just below Buckhannon-Upshur High School. It will also cross US Route 33, Stoney Run, Brushy Fork, Tenmile creek, the Buckhannon River, and the Middle Fork River.

It will deforest mountain ridges with a 125-foot construction corridor, and will destroy small streams. Both original and alternative routes are proposed to run through the pristine Monongahela National Forest, home to headwater streams for six major rivers, and a delicate ecosystem, second in diversity only to the rain forest. It will also cross George Washington National Forest in both West Virginia and Virginia. Upshur County’s main transportation corridors and waterways will be at risk.

Experts will present talks on the pipeline and its surrounding issues, including landowner rights, property values, legal, safety, and other issues related to the proposed pipeline. Elise Keaton, pipeline coordinator, Pamela Dodds, hydrogeologist, and lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates will be available to answer questions from concerned community members. (The press is expected to attend.)

At least four inter-state (crossing state lines) and several intra-state (within state borders) pipelines are proposed for West Virginia so far. “It is unclear that we need all of these, and whether the advantages will outweigh the risks,” says April Keating of the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, a multi-county group of concerned citizens. “If we do accept them, they should come with conditions, restrictions, and oversight.”

Lawyers from Appalachian Mountain Advocates are offering to represent landowners if challenged over the right to enter their property for a survey. Whether you have received a survey letter or are a concerned citizen, you are encouraged to attend the meeting on Saturday, March 28. These decisions made now could affect many generations of West Virginians to come.

To learn more, contact Elise Keaton, 304-647-4792,

Also, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, 304-645-9006,

Submitted by: April Keating, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, Upshur County, WV

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Smith March 17, 2015 at 7:43 am

School Buses contain a volatile substance known as gasoline and when they wreck, they can explode. Electrical lines transmit deadly amounts of electricity, and when they snap they can cause forest fires. Open reservoirs can be poisoned. People running with scissors can be cut…etc, etc. Time to get real and grow up. Life is endangered everyday. We can’t allow “what if’s” to dictate how we live.


A P Mama March 22, 2015 at 8:04 pm

These are all true, but the truth of these arguments does not invalidate the truth of the argument that these pipelines are dangerous and not needed. We need to move to renewable energy right now, not later.

There is much to this story that has yet to be told. Our water is hanging in the balance. Fossil fuels are old school. We need to prepare for a future with clean water, safe jobs, and a way of life that will make us healthier and happier.

P.S. Our information meeting on the pipelines is in Buckhannon on Saturday, March 28th. Start time is 1 pm at the American Legion Building on Kanawha Street.


S. Thomas Bond March 21, 2015 at 12:33 pm

OK. Maybe you’d like to nominate some teenagers, or rural folk, for that matter. Urban population areas don’t seem to face the direct risks, in most cases.

This is real people we are talking about, not statistics. There is no long-term future for the U.S. or the Earth if we industrialize the rural areas.


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