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Department of Transportation warns of 'heightened risk for imminent failures' on pipeline that ruptured in September

Records detail rupture at another pipeline 2 weeks prior
pipeline rupture off Florida's Turnpike on Sept. 24, 2020
Posted at 11:38 AM, Dec 18, 2020

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Federal officials are raising concerns about the "heightened risk for imminent failures" along a pipeline that ruptured along the turnpike on Sept. 24, according to documents obtained by Contact 5.

The documents note a similar incident happened just two weeks earlier when a 12-inch natural gas pipeline ruptured and ignited in Sanford.

The Second Amended Corrective Action Order from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is dated Oct. 22. It notes both pipelines were manufactured by the same company in 1959 and warns the "continued operation of the affected pipelines ... without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property and the environment."

Energy Transfer Partners LP operate both pipelines. A representative for the company told Contact 5 in an email that "the investigation remains ongoing" and "this is a very detailed process and takes some time to complete."

The order directs Energy Transfer Partners LP to take more than a dozen corrective actions, including testing, failure analysis and to reduce pressure along the affected pipeline.

"These pipes are right next to the highway, right next to homes, right next to businesses, so it's certainly a major concern," said Ali Gordon, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Central Florida, in an interview with Contact 5.

Gordon is an expert in pipe fatigue and fracture.

RELATED: Contact 5 digs deeper into what caused gas line explosion | 12 million cubic feet of natural gas released after rupture near Florida's Turnpike

"The fact that these two incidents are happening close together, it has to be taken seriously," Gordon told Contact 5.

Gordon notes that, although the pipes were manufactured in 1959, the focus should be on the wear-and-tear for both pipelines.

"It's not the age of the pipe that is concerning. ... What should be of more concern is how the pipes are used and how frequently they're inspected, and how frequently they're repaired," Gordon said.

According to the federal report, the pipeline along Florida's Turnpike was last inspected in 2017, and no anomalies were found.

Gordon told Contact 5 residents should only be concerned "if the corrective actions aren't taken."

While Gordon pointed out that "it's not uncommon to have this type of vintage pipe in use," he notes two ruptures just weeks apart is alarming.

"The fact that you're having multiple catastrophic failures within a narrow stretch, you can't take it lightly," Gordon said.

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