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Pipeline testing set to start Sept. 6

Geer Road detours expected

POSTED August 17, 2012 7:06 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric is continuing its public outreach effort in advance of planned September testing of a section of natural gas pipeline in Turlock.

The utility hosted a drop-in public forum at Crowell Elementary on Wednesday, offering details on the testing of a pipeline which runs alongside Geer Road. According to PG&E spokesperson Nicole Liebelt, only five Turlockers stopped in at the meeting.

Liebelt attributed the lack of attendees to PG&E’s extensive outreach campaign. The utility has presented on the pipeline testing project before the Turlock City Council and sent out mailers to the more than 2,000 customers who live within 1,000 feet of the work.

“That speaks to the reason why we haven’t had a lot of questions,” Liebelt said, noting PG&E has registered no opposition to the project, and received very little feedback.

The hydrostatic pipeline testing will be conducted as part of a statewide effort to ensure aging pipelines do not fail, as in the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion which killed eight people.

The hydrostatic testing will see the pipeline segments removed from service, vented of all natural gas, mechanically cleaned, sealed on both ends, and completely filled with water. The water will then be pressurized much higher than normal operating pressure, and monitored for eight hours to detect leaks.

Should the test be successful, the pipeline will be emptied, dried, and placed back into service. If problems are found, the pipeline is replaced.

According to Richard Dye, with PG&E Government Relations, only two “pinhole” leaks were found in 160 miles of tested pipeline last year. One of those, in Bakersfield, led to a 4-foot-long rupture in a pipe seam, which blew a “sizable crater” in a farmer’s field, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

Though Turlock’s pipelines date back to the 1960s, PG&E officials said they have seen no indication of a problem with local pipelines.

“It’s proactive testing that we’re doing on our pipeline to ensure the ongoing reliability of the pipes in Turlock,” Liebelt said.

Turlockers may smell natural gas when the pipeline is vented, which should quickly dissipate, and may also hear a loud bang, like a gunshot.

The hydrostatic testing will not interrupt the flow of natural gas to customers, PG&E said.

The section of pipeline to be tested runs alongside and underneath Geer Road, from just north of Canal Drive to just south of Christoffersen Parkway. PG&E will excavate at several points along the route, but Liebelt was unsure of specific dig points.

Liebelt said the work would result in lane reductions and a closure on Geer Road, near Fullerton Drive and Canal Drive, leading to minor traffic delays. All work locations will be clearly marked, she said, with signs to help direct traffic.

Work is currently scheduled to run from Sept. 6 through Sept. 20.

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