By Mary C. Serreze, MassLive / Springfield Republican
December 26, 2017
AGAWAM — On Nov. 20, a contractor for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. improperly discharged 16,500 gallons of pipeline wastewater from a storage tank to the ground near the company’s natural gas compressor station on Suffield Street.
The water, which contained metals and other contaminants, had been used for “hydrostatic testing” of the Connecticut Expansion pipeline project under construction by the Kinder Morgan subsidiary.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 12 sent Tennessee notice of an “urgent legal matter” and demanded information about the incident to see if there was a violation of the Clean Water Act. Tennessee responded on Dec. 21. The documents are contained in a biweekly progress report Tennessee filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.
The water contained reportable levels of copper, iron, and lead, and exceeded standards for two chemicals: tetrachloroethylene (known as percloroethylene, or PERC), and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, also known as DEHP, according to independent lab tests Tennessee provided to the federal agencies. PERC, an industrial solvent, and DEHP, used to produce polyvinyl chloride, are classified by the EPA as likely carcinogens.
Tennessee had previously agreed that the water would be trucked offsite to a licensed disposal facility.
In its request for information, the EPA’s Region I Boston office said the Nov. 20 spill may have entered a tributary of the Worthington Brook, a cold water fishery. In response, Tennessee said the water “infiltrated the ground and did not enter any body of water.” The company further said it “did not observe any environmental damage resulting from the discharge.”
An onsite contractor was to blame, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. Environmental Specialist Brian Benito wrote to the federal regulators.
The contractor never notified Tennessee of its intent to empty the tank, Benito wrote. Tennessee learned of the problem Nov. 27 when a separate contractor showed up to haul the water off-site to an approved facility, and found that there was no water in the tank.
The contractors were not named. Benito wrote that the problem could have been avoided if Tennessee had posted signage on the tank and outfitted it with a lock.
According to the firm’s narrative, Tennessee on Sept. 29 withdrew water from a municipal hydrant, and on Oct. 2 used it to test part of its pipeline for evidence of leaks. The water was returned to the tank and discharged “through a hose into a filter bag located in an upland vegetated area” inside the station yard three days before Thanksgiving.
Tennessee notified the EPA and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection on Nov. 28.
A pipeline watchdog group on Friday said that FERC has allowed Tennessee to engage in “sloppy practices” by allowing the company to police itself.
The Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network, in a letter to the federal agency, said Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. and its contractors should be kept “on a much tighter leash” and held to strict procedures and oversight.
The Connecticut Expansion Project consists of three sections: a 1.3-mile New York loop in Albany County, a 3.8-mile Massachusetts loop through Berkshire County, and an 8.3-mile Connecticut loop that starts at the Agawam compressor and heads south over the state border.
The project, which is nearing completion, is designed to deliver 72,100 dekatherms of service per day from the Iroquois Transmission System in New York to three natural gas distribution utilities in Connecticut.
The Berkshire county section of the pipeline has been the subject of intense legal fights and protests, https://topics.masslive.com/tag/otis-state-forest as it crosses the Otis State Forest, seen as an ecologically valuable piece of state conservation land.