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A 17-mile long crude oil pipeline originates at a bulk storage facility in rural Kalamazoo County and ends at a former crude oil refinery in the City of Kalamazoo. The pipeline was left abandoned still containing crude oil, posing a threat to several environmentally sensitive areas it crosses. Increasing development pressure along the entire length of the predominantly rural pipeline increased the threat of unfortunate, potentially release-causing encounters with the pipeline.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) interpretation of Michigan environmental law was to consider the pipeline an abandoned container. The MDEQ made the commitment to address that threat using both state and federal funding. After draining and cleaning using conventional techniques, over 97% of the pipeline length was grouted in situ to protect environmentally sensitive areas. Less than 1% was left ungrouted while approximately 2% of the pipeline was physically removed. Approximately 100,000 gallons of crude oil were recovered from the pipeline and recycled. The fieldwork was accomplished with a minimal number of releases to the environment (Figure 1).

The project represents a number of ‘firsts’. It is the largest crude oil pipeline abandonment to have been conducted in Michigan. It is the first crude oil pipeline abandonment conducted by the MDEQ. It is the first project in Michigan where USEPA has directly reimbursed MDEQ for having performed work under OPA funding mechanisms.

Project success can be attributed to strategic public relations planning, interagency cooperation between USEPA, MDEQ and local units of government, and stringent contractor qualification requirements. The pipeline affected approximately 140 parcels of properties. Property transactions and development can now occur in the area without fear of causing a release of crude oil to the environment (Figure 2).

This unique, orphaned site presented challenges to safely mitigating a potentially catastrophic release. Refinery operators are presently required to remove containerized product (such as that in the pipeline) as part of facility closure. This pipeline sat idle and unused for nearly 20 years.

The project team used a uniquely cooperative approach to problem solving. When the pipeline condition was found to be worse than originally believed (Figure 3), the owner and engineer worked closely with the contractor to cooperatively develop improved procedures. The engineer then incorporated contractor-recommended, owner-approved solutions to site-specific technical problems (Figure 4). This maximized the use of a highly qualified contractor's skills and abilities.

In addition to mitigating a potentially catastrophic release to the environment and improving local property values and development potential, the cooperative interagency nature of the project funding mechanisms represented a significant savings to the state of Michigan. USEPA designated 1.2 million dollars in OPA funding for this project, representing the majority of project funding.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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