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Operation Suspended at Weymouth Compressor Station

Greg Lane, Hingham Current Staff, October 2, 2020

Following the second unplanned emergency shutdown and the release of 275 thousand cubic feet (mscf) of natural gas at the Weymouth Compressor Station, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) yesterday issued a Corrective Action Order halting the operation. 

 

“I find that continued operation of the Station without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment, and that failure to issue this Order expeditiously would result in the likelihood of serious harm,” said Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety Alan Mayberry.   

 

The latest incident, which led PHMSA to suspend Enbridge’s operation of the compressor station, occurred on September 30th at approximately 10:30 AM. The circumstances surrounding a failure which triggered the manual operation of the emergency shutdown system earlier this month, as well as the cause for the emergency shutdown yesterday, are under investigation. 

On September 11th, the compressor station experienced its first incident when a gasket failed on a sump tank during commissioning activities. The incident resulted in the release of 169 mscf of natural gas.

During a press conference with local leaders this afternoon, U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch explained that the emergency shutdown yesterday appears to be electronic in nature, and because this is an international pipeline and because of the national security implications the Federal Bureau of Investigations has been asked to take a look at any possible cyber intrusion that might have triggered the release. Lynch has asked for an FBI briefing. 

 

“While additional details on this latest safety incident are still under investigation, these accidents endangered the lives of local residents and are indicative of a much larger threat that the Weymouth Compressor Station poses to Weymouth, Quincy, Abington and Braintree residents, as well as surrounding communities, by operating in such a densely residential area,“ said U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch.

US Rep. Stephen Lynch press conference at the Weymouth Compressor Station. Left to right MA St. Rep. Ronald Mariano, MA St. Rep. James Murphy, US Rep. Stephen Lynch, MA St. Sen. Patrick O'Connor, FRAACS Leader Alice Arena and FRAACS Member Paul Burwell (Hingham Current Video)

Neither residents in the neighborhood across the street, nor state and local officials from the surrounding towns were notified by Enbridge of the emergency shutdowns. The company is only required to notify emergency responder officials if there are injuries or fatalities associated with the incidents. However, during PHSMA’s preliminary findings expressed concern that the release of large quantities of pressurized natural gas in a heavily populated area carries a substantial risk of fire, explosion, and personal injury or death and releases harmful methane into the environment.

 

Residents only learned about the first incident after smelling gas and state and local leaders were alerted about the second incident from Representative Lynch after he was contacted by PHMSA.

 

Paul Burwell is member of the Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station, FRRACS, who lives near the site. He’s worried about the health impacts of the methane. 

 

“This big company doesn’t care that they released toxins into the air. It’s just very, very bad,” said Burwell.

 

As part of the Corrective Action Order, Enbridge must complete a root cause failure analysis that documents the decision-making process and all factors contributing to the emergency shut down yesterday. Prior to resuming operation, the company must also develop and submit a written Restart Plan to PHMSA for approval. Failure to comply with the PHMSA order may result in the assessment of civil penalties and in referral to the Attorney General. 

 

“This is something that we as a delegation will continue to fight because it’s the right thing to do,” said State Senator Patrick O’Connor. “There are churches, schools and daycare centers nearby. This is an irresponsible siting of a natural gas infrastructure.” 

Greg can be reached at greg@hinghamcurrent.com.