On the morning of April 7, 2000, the Piney Point Oil Pipeline system, which was owned by the Potomac Electric Power Company, experienced a pipe failure at the Chalk Point Generating Station in southeastern Prince George's County, Maryland. The release was not discovered and addressed by the contract operating company, Support Terminal Services, Inc., until the late afternoon. Approximately 140,400 gallons of fuel oil were released into the surrounding wetlands and Swanson Creek and, subsequently, the Patuxent River as a result of the accident. No injuries were caused by the accident, which cost approximately $71 million for environmental response and clean-up operations.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the April 7, 2000, Piney Point Oil Pipeline accident at the Potomac Electric Power Company's Chalk Point, Maryland, generating station was a fracture in a buckle in the pipe that was undiscovered because the data from an in-line inspection tool were interpreted inaccurately as representing a T-piece. Contributing to the magnitude of the fuel oil release were inadequate operating procedures and practices for monitoring the flow of fuel oil through the pipeline to ensure timely leak detection.
This report discusses the following major safety issues:
- The sufficiency of the evaluation procedures for pipe wrinkles;
- The efficiency of the leak notification procedures; and,
- The effectiveness of the incident command.
In addition to these issues, the Safety Board's investigation addressed the leak detection procedures used on the Piney Point Oil Pipeline and the analysis of the pipeline in-line inspection results.
As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the Research and Special Programs Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:
To the Research and Special Programs Administration:
Establish quantitative criteria, based on engineering evaluations, for determining whether a wrinkle may be allowed to remain in a pipeline. (P-02-01)
Require pipeline owners and operators to provide follow-up telephone updates to the National Response Center when they discover that the information they initially reported contains significant errors or when they identify significant new information directly related to the reporting criteria. (P-02-02)
To the Environmental Protection Agency:
Require all your regions to integrate the principles contained in the National Response Team's Technical Assistance Document Incident Command System/Unified Command-Managing Responses to Oil Discharges and Hazardous Substance Releases under the National Contingency Plan in their area contingency plans and require the regions to train all personnel who are assigned responsibility to implement the plans according to those principles. (P-02-03)