By LARRY COPENHAVER
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, owner of an underground pipeline that burst last July 30 and spewed gasoline into a West Side neighborhood, said it will contest a $325,000 federal fine proposed yesterday for alleged safety violations.
Inadequate maintenance included seam defects, stress corrosion cracks and poor risk assessment, the government said in proposing the fine here yesterday.
Tests indicate stress corrosion cracking led to the at least 16,000- gallon spill – enough to fill a small home swimming pool – that is still being cleaned up on several lots near West Silverbell Tree Drive and North Mountain Creek Way, near West Silverbell and West Grant roads.
“We dispute some of their findings and disagree that civil penalties are appropriate,” said Thomas Bannigan, company president.
The proposed fine, which can be contested within 30 days, lets Kinder Morgan know the government is serious about safety, said Samuel G. Bonasso, deputy administrator of the federal Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration. The department will make the final determination on the fine, he said.
In a written response, Bannigan said that before the Tucson incident, there had never been a break caused by stress corrosion on a company pipeline. Since the break, Kinder Morgan has modified a program to evaluate lines for such problems, Bannigan stated.
The Houston-based company owns or operates more than 25,000 miles of pipelines delivering petroleum products and natural gas, a company Web site states.
PHOTO CAPTION: XAVIER GALLEGOS/Tucson Citizen
Yesenia Acuña, 18, moved in across the street from the contaminated lots a month ago with her parents, Maria and Juan Acuña. “My parents were not sure they wanted to move into the house,” she said. Read what other residents of the neighborhood have to say about the $325,000 fine proposed for the pipeline’s owner. Page 5A