Sagging Sewer Line Could Delay Start-Up of Maryland Compressor Station

By Anne Meador

Damages and multiple violations during construction of a controversial compressor station in Myersville, Maryland have caused its town council to take action to delay the start of operations. What’s more, the harm done to the town’s main sewer line and right-of-ways may have originated with Dominion Transmission’s pressuring of a contractor, who seemed more than willing to take a few short-cuts.

A series of contentious email exchanges between town management and Dominion’s contractor WF Delauter was obtained by a citizens’ group opposed to the 16,000hp compressor station, which would spew 23.5 tons of nitrous oxides and 54,000 tons of greenhouse gases into the air annually. It calls the sagging sewer line “unacceptable,” with repairs requiring “extensive preparation, permitting, and organization.”

14405052687_abc0ca9c9f_nOn June 17–the day FERC gave DTI the go-ahead to begin 24/7, seven-day-a-week construction–contractor head Kirby Delauter applied to a state agency for emergency clearance to begin work on the sewer line. The permit bypassed the 48-hour notice normally required by both Myersville and the state. It authorized emergency electrical repair, not excavation and replacement of utilities.

“Dominion was pushing to get started so they suggested to place it under an emergency locate in order to get it earlier,” Delauter wrote in an email to the Town Manager.

The contractor is also accused of several other violations, such as accessing private property without permission, disturbing  soft soils, and crossing streams or wetlands without a permit.

In other email exchanges, the Town Manager complained of “lack of communication” and instructed Delauter to stop work “until proper communication is made.” The Mayor expressed concern that Delauter filed a fraudulent complaint with the state agency that oversees the marking of utilities.

Consequently, Myersville’s town council directed the Town Manager to notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that if the sewer line isn’t repaired promptly, it may not issue the required approval. There is a possibility that withholding approval would delay the compressor station’s scheduled in-service date of November 1.

Early construction on Myersville site.
Early construction on Myersville site.

At first, DTI offered reimbursement if the town addressed the damage, but this week a spokesman said, “DTI realizes its obligation and will make and pay for the necessary repairs.”

The Myersville station is located on the Transco Pipeline which originates in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a region of heavily concentrated hydraulic fracking.

“Compressor stations are inherently polluting industries,” said Sandra Steingraber, PhD, science advisor for Americans Against Fracking, regarding two proposed Dominion Transmission compressor stations. “The kind of pollution these things release is known to cause chronic health risks including increase stroke risk and increase heart attack.”

Dominion Transmission denies that Myersville Compressor Station, part of the Allegheny Storage Project, is connected to recently approved Cove Point LNG. Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, however, contends that the station’s location on the Cove Point Pipeline and higher-than-needed capacity prove that it should not have been segmented from the Cove Point project.

MCRC  filed an appeal against FERC’s certification of the compressor station. Oral arguments will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia on October 24.

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