Today the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a safety advisory in the Federal Register (78 FR 13747) that is based upon an accident investigation recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB recommendation (R-12-04; NOTE: this link takes you to the NTSB search page; NTSB does not use permanent links to its recommendations) was a result of their investigation of the June 19th, 2009 derailment of a CN freight train in Cherry Valley, IL. According to an NTSB letter report (pg 3) on the derailment, one of the results of that accident was that a 12” natural gas pipeline was damaged, even though it was buried much deeper than required by current regulations.
The pipeline did not leak after the accident, but the damage was such that it could have been expected to leak if it had not been examined and repaired immediately after the accident was cleared. As a result, the NTSB made the following two recommendations:
• That PHMSA inform pipeline operators about the circumstances of the accident and advise them of the need to inspect pipeline facilities after notification of accidents occurring in railroad rights-of-way.
• That the FRA inform railroads about the circumstances of the accident and advise them of the need to immediately notify pipeline operators of accidents occurring in railroad rights-of-way and ensure that pipeline inspections have been accomplished prior to resumption of service.
PHMSA made their notification in an Advisory Bulletin published in the Federal Register (77 FR 45417-45418) on July 31st, 2012.
FRA Safety Bulletin
Today’s FRA Safety Bulletin states:
“Like PHMSA, FRA encourages railroads to use the 811 ``Call Before You Dig'' program to notify pipeline operators of rail accidents occurring in railroad rights-of-way where pipelines are present and to ensure that pipeline inspections are accomplished prior to resumption of service. By calling 811, pipeline owners and operators will be notified of potential problems the accident may have caused to the pipeline, and enable the pipeline owners and operators to work with the involved railroads to prevent further injury to individuals cleaning up the accident site.”
Emergency Response Personnel
Local emergency response officials are probably (hopefully) more knowledgeable of major pipelines that run through their area than are the railroads that run trains through the area. Incident Commanders at all derailments should also use the 811 “Call Before You Dig” line to ensure that they are aware of all major (and minor) pipelines in the area that could have been damaged by the train cars.
The fact that this accident damaged a pipeline that was buried under 11 feet of dirt and enclosed in an 16” casing shows how much damage to underground utilities can be sustained in an incident like this. Emergency response personnel need to be cognizant of this potential danger (as if derailments weren’t dangerous enough already).