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Uneasy feelings about pipeline

The thought of petroleum pumping through Lawrence County has some residents' blood pumping.

"Right across the street from my house, there's a gas line stake and one of the stakes for the pipeline," said Ann Lemley, a resident of Perry Township who lives near the South Point village line.

Last Monday, a Columbia Gas line exploded near the Kanawha-Putnam County lines in West Virginia. In some areas of Lawrence County, the soon-to-be constructed Marathon-Ashland pipeline is near Columbia lines.

The company states the route for the pipeline will run through existing utility corridors and parallel to the gas lines.

However, the lines will not be on top of each other and in Lawrence County, the closest together they will be is 27 feet, said Jennifer Robinson, a Marathon-Ashland Petroleum spokeswoman. The lines will only be that close through 3.8 miles of Lawrence County.

In front of her house, Lemley said, the lines are 34 feet apart.

David Classing, a South Point village councilman, is also concerned.

"The deal in West Virginia brings to light the dangers of putting them close together," he said.

The material in the Marathon-Ashland pipeline is a liquid and it would spill onto the ground, not explode, unless the material is somehow ignited, said Dr. Richard Bady, a professor of physics at Marshall University. If one line were to rupture, one leak would not affect the other line even if they are as near as 34 feet apart.

"Natural gas is lighter than air," he said. "Flames from it will rise out of the ground rather quickly."

If both lines were to rupture at the same time, the potential does exist for a catastrophe, Bady said. But, the chances are very slim. If the petroleum line were to rupture, spilling the petroleum onto the ground and the gas line would rupture and catch fire also igniting the petroleum, a disaster could result.

"It would have to be some type of far-fetched sabotage," he said.

Construction on the pipeline is expected to begin by the end of the month, said Robinson and the expected completion date is Spring 2003. Once completed, the line will pump gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel manufactured at the Catlettsburg, Ky. refinery from a large tank farm in Kenova, W.Va. that holds the products to a terminal in Columbus' West Side on Fisher Road.

The pipeline runs through slightly more than two miles of County Commissioner Paul Herrell's property.

However, he is not concerned.

"I used to work with pipelines," he said. "The pipeline is deep enough and there's no threat. It's not dangerous if you follow the rules."

Also, the pressure on the pipeline will be 1,400 psi (pounds per square inch) at the start in Kenova, W.Va. and will gradually decrease. The pressure in Columbus will be 50 psi.

Robinson said 1,400 psi is equivalent to the average person walking four miles per hour.

"The pipeline is constructed of state-of-the-art steel," said Robinson.

According a Marathon-Ashland fact sheet, the pipeline will be inspected by the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) during construction, be tested with pressurized water to at least 125 percent of maximum operating pressure before being put into operation and be controlled and monitored from an operations center in Findlay. Automated, remote-controlled shut-off valves will be used.

Also, Robinson said Marathon-Ashland is in the process of building a web site with information and streaming video of the pipeline construction to ease any concerns property owners or those living near the pipeline may have.

Despite these claims from Marathon-Ashland, Lemley is still concerned after watching the West Virginia explosion coverage.

"Those trees were ashes," she said. "They were just white ash." Amelia Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune