Damage Prevention and Public Awareness

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Call 811 – The “One-Call” System

A nationwide utility locator system is available for free in every state, to anyone planning hand or machine excavation, in order to prevent damage to pipelines and other utilities. By calling 811 at least two working days before digging, a utility locator will come identify and mark buried utilities, including cables and pipelines for fuel, water and sewer. This is a requirement by law in California (see GOV Code § 4216 et. seq.) with civil penalties associated with noncompliance. Pipeline operators must participate in this program. In communities that do not have other types of consultation zones or setback regulations, the “One-Call ticket” (as operators refer to the resulting notification from someone calling 811) is likely to be the first notice the pipeline operator has that someone is intending to dig close to their pipeline.

Pipeline operators also are required by federal law to have a Public Awareness Program. This program must describe what the operator does to inform the public of the presence of the pipeline and potential hazards, and how they do it. For instance, the operator must identify and communicate with local emergency personnel, government officials, school districts, businesses, and the public along a pipeline, and tell them specific things such as how to recognize pipeline location markers, what kind of precautions they should take, what kind of properties the commodity being transported in the pipeline has, and how to recognize and respond to a pipeline emergency.

Local Opportunities for Public Involvment, Education and Awareness

The Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Ombudsman is a useful single point of contact for information regarding hazardous materials including pipelines; part of the ombudsman’s role is to help people in the county be good advocates for themselves by providing information. The public can also attend Hazardous Materials Commission meetings or apply to be one of the 13 members (some of these are public seats).

The county also has a Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER) group, which is a non-profit public benefit corporation of public emergency response agencies, local government officials and facilities and businesses that use, store, handle, produce or transport hazardous materials. All of these entities can be members of CAER; membership is voluntary, and while most of the waterfront industrial facility operators are members, Kinder Morgan is not. CAER works to actively enhance public health and safety, and includes public representatives on its board of directors. CAER efforts focus on the waterfront areas from Richmond to Antioch where industrial facilities are concentrated but their expertise and public outreach model also support inland areas of county affected by hazardous materials transport through pipelines.