Columbia Gas Transmission
Current Site Information
EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)West Virginia
EPA ID# WV0000229666
Various Congressional District
Last Update: May 2004
No future updates
Current Site StatusColumbia continues assessments and removal activities at numerous active and former compressor stations and other locations along its pipeline in several states. Columbia has provided EPA a Work Scope List that identifies areas of the pipeline system where removal activities are required. It is estimated that the majority of the removal work to be performed under this Order may be completed by the end of this year. Several sites that have contaminated groundwater may require a longer period of time to complete.
Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation (“Columbia”) is headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia. Columbia has operated a natural gas pipeline system in the northeastern quadrant of the United States since the 1890's. Columbia currently operates approximately 19,000 miles of pipeline and approximately 243 active or retired compressor stations in Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware. Columbia's pipeline is interconnected with other natural gas transmission pipelines and has been used in the past to transport natural gas owned by other companies as well as natural gas owned by Columbia. The Columbia Gas Site (“Site”) includes the natural gas pipeline, compressor stations, including compressed air systems, liquid removal points along the natural gas pipeline system (all locations where pipeline liquids are removed), mercury metering stations, storage wells and related operations, natural gas flare sites, drum storage areas, vent stacks, maintenance facilities, lubricating oil storage tanks, including loading and unloading areas, natural gas scrubbers, electrical equipment that has been filled with oil, roads and fence lines that were sprayed with oil for dust and weed control, and other locations not described above.
Natural gas compressors are used in Columbia’s pipeline to increase pressure within the pipeline to facilitate transportation of natural gas to Columbia's customers. Lubricating oil is used in natural gas compressors at Columbia's pipeline as well as at other pipelines to which Columbia’s pipeline is connected. During the course of ordinary operation of the pipeline, lubricating oil has migrated into Columbia's pipeline.
Prior to 1976, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were widely used by industry in lubricating oils for electrical equipment and hydraulic systems because of their exceptional heat transfer characteristics. Portions of Columbia's pipeline, including natural gas compressors, have become contaminated with PCBs. Columbia maintains that these PCBs have been introduced into its pipeline system as a result of interconnections with natural gas transmission pipelines of other companies that used lubricating oil containing PCBS, and that Columbia did not use PCB lubricating oils in its natural gas compressors.
As a result of normal pressure and temperature changes within Columbia's pipeline, constituents contained in natural gas can condense into a liquid form within the pipeline. This liquid, or condensate, may contain, among other things, benzene, toluene, and xylene. The condensate may additionally contain PCB-contaminated lubricants that have entered the pipeline. Condensates must be removed to avoid damage to the gas compressors. Condensate is removed from Columbia's pipeline through numerous liquid removal points at various locations along the pipeline system. The most common type of liquid removal point consists of a liquid trap attached to the pipeline and a length of small-diameter pipe with an above-ground valve, Columbia's pipeline includes approximately 15,000 liquid removal points where condensates are or were removed from the pipeline. Condensate, removed from Columbia's pipeline was disposed by Columbia onto the ground at liquid removal points, stored in aboveground and underground storage tanks, and/or disposed of in trash disposal and burn areas at various locations along the pipeline system. As a result of this practice soils along the pipeline, in the vicinity of the storage tanks, and in the trash disposal and burn areas have become contaminated with, among other things, PCBS, benzene, toluene, and xylene.
There are approximately 3,000 locations along Columbia's pipeline where mercury-filled metering devices are used to measure pipeline flow and pressure. Routine maintenance activities performed on these devices has resulted in drips and spills of mercury from a number of these devices onto the ground in the vicinity of these devices. Soil in the vicinity of these instruments has become contaminated with mercury.
Site ResponsibilityThis site is being addressed by a Potentially Responsible Party under an EPA Superfund Removal Order.
NPL Listing HistoryThis Site is not on the National Priorities List.
Threats and Contaminants
Oil, including petroleum and its constituents, can pose a threat to human health and the environment. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) and some polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds have been linked to adverse developmental effects in laboratory animals. Inhalation exposure to benzene has been associated with impaired reproduction in women. Skin contact with benzene and ethylbenzene causes dermatitis. Inhalation of high concentrations of benzene, xylene, and toluene in air causes central nervous system depression. Benzene is a known human carcinogen. The PAH components of petroleum are associated with a variety of toxic effects, including dermatitis; several PAHs are probable human carcinogens.
PCBs are very persistent in the natural environment and are readily bioaccumulated. In humans, exposure to PCBs has been associated with chloracne, impairment of liver function, a variety of neurobehavioral symptoms, menstrual disorders, minor birth abnormalities, and an increased incidence of cancer. PCBs are also toxic to aquatic life.
Mercury is a liquid metal that can vaporize at room temperatures. Vapors from mercury can be very toxic if inhaled. Possible health effects of short-term mercury exposure include: coughing; shortness of breath; chest pain; vomiting; diarrhea; fever; mouth sores; kidney problems; loose teeth; impaired judgement; memory loss; and sleeplessness. Longer-term exposure could cause mercury poisoning, which can result in damage to the central nervous system, birth defects, and kidney damage.
Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.