FEBRUARY 24, 1997

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Opinion

Message in pipeline explosions

pipeline explosions Northwest Pipeline Corp. shut down, from the Canadian border to the Columbia River, the 260-mile natural gas pipeline that exploded twice in opposite ends of the state last weekend. The decision was made when workers discovered more evidence of ground movement near a rupture. The Office of Pipeline Safety and the company agreed that the key factor in the ruptures was stress/strain on the pipeline, created by land movement.
   That is quite different from Olympic Pipe Line's response to authorities about pipeline spills in March and June. The spill near Kalama brought out alibis: A system so sensitive it caused false alarms and was discarded; a leak less than 630 gallons per hour is not recorded.
   Following the March spill in Kalama was another at Ebey Slough out of Everett in June. These spills were not discovered by Olympic's air surveillance but by fishermen in Kalama, a utilities crew at Ebey Slough. Olympic said the leaks were small, less than 900 gallons combined. Yet the Department of Ecology fined Olympic $7,000 for the March spill of 2,000 gallons of diesel, promising a later announcement of damage and penalties on the Ebey Slough spill.
   Olympic has talked of concern for the consumer, availability, and price. If that means they will absorb the cost of research for a better way and the construction of a 227- mile pipeline--I don't buy it. Texaco and Arco don't do business that way.
   Last but not least, Olympic blamed the Kalama spill on a rather unusual rain event. After living in Washington all my life (82 years in April), I don't consider it unusual. It happens spring, fall, and winter, with an occasional semi-cloudburst in summer. I consider it nature "keeping Washington green."
   Call the toll-free legislative hotline with your message: "No to Olympic Pipe Line!"

Marguerite Ensley, Carnation