One effect of the San Bruno explosion is that people are much less amenable to having a massive gas transmission line running through their backyards.
Ever since gas transmission pipeline 132 exploded in San Bruno on Sept. 9, destroying dozens of homes and killing eight people, South San Francisco officials have advocated that PG&E move the pipeline that runs through backyards of dozens of homes in their Sunshine Gardens neighborhood.
Line 132 extends northeast through South San Francisco before climbing up the unpopulated San Bruno Mountain.
Unbeknownst to South San Francisco officials prior to the accident, PG&E had already identified a 7,480-foot section of pipeline in the city to be replaced. One company document said the section “ranks in the top 100 highest risk sections” due to its “likelihood of failure.”
In fact, in 2007, PG&E had asked regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission to approve a rate hike to pay for the multimillion-dollar replacement project, then slated to begin in 2009. Then last year, PG&E asked for $5.1 million to pay for the same project, which it had postponed until 2013.
When city officials learned of this, they demanded that PG&E accelerate its plans to at least 2012, which the utility agreed to do.
City officials also told PG&E officials they were not satisfied with a simple replacement project. They wanted the pipe moved away from homes. As it stands, the pipe travels from the northern end of Antoinette Lane up Mission Road, past Kaiser Permanente and to the entrance of the South San Francisco BART station.
There, the pipeline takes a sharp right, traveling along an easement sandwiched between the backyards of the homes of two streets. PG&E also has large cement powerlines along the easement.
South San Francisco Department of Public Works Director Terry White said this situation is not ideal, not just for safety concerns, but because it would be difficult and disruptive to replace the pipeline in the narrow easement. Instead, he said, the city would like the pipeline to continue further up Mission Road to Lawndale Boulevard.
Complicating this suggestion is that Lawndale is not actually in South San Francisco — it’s technically in the neighboring town of Colma. White said Colma officials have not yet indicated where they stand on the proposal.
PG&E has been meeting with South City officials and recently proposed an alternative, which would run the pipe up Chestnut Avenue. But White said that while that’s the shortest route, it is near many more homes than the Lawndale option.
PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord said several options are under discussion, but could not provide details. She said the utility is still on schedule to replace the pipeline by December 2012.
Chord noted that the section of pipe was recently tested with pressurized water, and it did not spring any leaks. However, a camera that was run through the pipe around the time of the test discovered a minor dent and other problems with the girth weld. The pipe is currently out of service while the utility investigates the issues further, but is expected to be back in service soon, she said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that PG&E had discovered problems with its seam weld on pipeline 132. Problems were actually discovered on the girth weld, not the seam weld.