Lack of information threatens PG&E infrastructure

The utter disrepair of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s record-keeping system may be endangering the lives and property of Bay Area residents, including those in Berkeley.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a 140-page report Aug. 30 on PG&E following the devastating explosion of a pipeline in San Bruno on Sept. 10, 2010. The disaster killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The investigation charges PG&E with a “litany of failures” over more than five decades that lead to the San Bruno explosion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

One of the most pressing concerns for PG&E and those who live in close proximity to their pipelines is the lack of reliable record-keeping.

“The lack of complete and accurate pipeline information prevented PG&E’s integrity management program from being effective,” the report reads.

This problem persist throughout the Bay Area, including in Berkeley. To address this, Berkeley City Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Max Anderson met with community members and PG&E on Sept. 13 at Rosa Parks Elementary School.

“I have no reason to sound alarm in the community,” Anderson said. “(PG&E) seem to be on top of it and stressing safety.”

Berkeleyside reported that a stretch of pipeline exists from 7th and Heinz streets down to Hollis Street, about which PG&E has very limited knowledge. PG&E knows the pipe was laid sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.

However, further information is almost non-existent.

“Assess every aspect of your integrity management program, paying particular attention to the areas identified in this report,” the National Transportation Safety Board recommended to PG&E in its August report.

UC Berkeley engineering professor Bob Bea spoke with the San Francisco Examiner about the conditions of PG&E’s pipelines.

“Yes, we are still at risk, and that’s because there’s ample evidence that there’s a high potential for defects and damage in this old infrastructure system…Pipelines are very much like you and I: their likelihood for failure goes up over time,” he said in an interview with the Examiner.