On Jan. 31, the North Dakota Pipeline Association held one of its county meetings in Halliday to educate first responders, oilfield workers and concerned citizens on pipelines.
By Zak Wellerman
Ryan Fisk, NDPA chairman and Dakota Gasification Company representative, said the main point they want to make with the meetings is to call before digging.
“We want to push pipeline awareness and safety and to call 811 before you dig. Because the leading cause of pipeline damage is excavation,” Fisk said.
Dunn County Emergency Manager Denise Brew said the meeting allowed local emergency responders to learn more about pipeline related events as they will be experiencing the emergencies.
“The biggest deal is to gather under one roof because they’re the ones going to the emergencies and it helps them get to know each other,” Brew said.
The presentation went over possible signs of a pipeline release. These signs include dead or discolored vegetation or snow, colorful sheens of water, stains or pools of hydrocarbons, dirt being blown into the air, fire coming out of the ground, dead animals or insects and construction or excavation equipment in the area.
The presenter also emphasized the importance of knowing that the pipeline marker does not always indicate the exact location and anything going through a pipeline is considered a hazardous material. Therefore, you should not approach these materials without being trained.
In regards to approaching a pipeline area as a responder, there is no benefit to getting as close as possible to the leak because it could lead to potential skin and respiratory issues. The officials said people should know who the pipeline operators are in their area and what products are being transported in order to effectively be prepared for emergencies.
While responding to emergencies, it is important to eliminate potential ignition sources, according to the presentation.
Brew also added some advice for responders out in the field.
“If you are called out, show extreme patience and caution. Figure out the information about the pipeline because [we] don’t want to create another emergency by going in too quickly,” Brew said.
The meeting’s presentation also explained concerns with protesters at pipelines. The presenter emphasized to not engage with protesters and contact law enforcement when seeing suspicious behavior.
“The pipeline company wants to know about it to contact law enforcement. When it comes to protesters, everyone’s neutral so everyone has a right to do what they want,” Fisk said. “Basically, we just want to say if you see something suspicious contact law enforcement.”
There are 12 NDPA member pipelines and one other non-NDPA pipeline company in Dunn County, which include carbon dioxide, natural gas and petroleum, Fisk said.
NDPA has 47 pipeline operators under them and the association can speak as one entity for the many companies.
“Basically what we do is set up meetings with first responders as well as attending anything that is related to first responders (EMS, law enforcement, fire),” Fisk said.
There are over 8,500 miles main bulk of pipelines in North Dakota. These types include gathering, transmission and distribution, according to the presentation.
NDPA also has 17 first responder meetings in the state and also meets with local emergency planning groups, Fisk added.
“We’ve always had a lot of numbers as far as Dunn County. We’ve always had a lot of attendance and we’ve always had contact and getting information to Dunn County,” Fisk said. “Fire chiefs and first responders do a great job as far as attendance and information.”