City of Norfolk independent consultants say controversial pipeline is ‘safe and secure’

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A consultant briefs the Norfolk City Council about the Southside Connector on Nov. 21, 2018._1542777132794.jpg.jpg

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – It was a packed city council meeting on Tuesday night in Norfolk over a controversial pipeline going through the city.

The discussion started earlier in the evening at council chambers. 

Independent consultants hired by the city are studying the possible impacts of a natural gas pipeline. 

They say claims from those opposing the line are unfounded.

The consultants examined three years of data for their report. According to the consultants, the concerns and claims made by those against the line come from a misunderstanding of how the pipeline industry operates. Still, many people aren’t convinced.

Consultants told council members they firmly believe the Southside Connector pipeline is safe and secure. 

Virginia Natural Gas says the pipeline will offer better gas service, but several Norfolk residents along with Colonna’s Shipyard have expressed concern over potential dangers, including its location and how it’s regulated. 

According to the consultants’ presentation, the line’s installation depth would range from three feet to as much as 85 feet in certain areas, like beneath the Elizabeth River. 

“That extra depth is a big deal. It adds a lot to safety,” said Paul Oleksa, a consultant with Oleksa and Associates. “The Southside Connector has an excellent corrosion control program covering internal and external corrosion.”

Despite what the experts said, those who live and work near the project feel otherwise.

“At what percentage of time operating at high pressure would you be fine with your own child going to school next to this transmission line? Yeah, me too. Never,” one woman said.

“Why weren’t rural locations used as a connection point?” asked Chuck McPhillips, a representative for Colonna Shipyard. “You were told downstairs that this line will handle pressures at much lower rates than it was designed to handle. Really? Where is that written?”

Plenty of people in support of the pipeline also took the podium.

“Last winter we were within a few hours of losing gas supply on the coldest day of the year after experiencing a service disruption from one of our sources,” said Eric Jacobs, a VNG employee. “We need it in order to improve reliability and ensure we can meet customer demand.”

Consultants also argued the Southside Connector pipeline can’t be compared to past disasters, saying it’s a high tech pipeline that isn’t like what was built in the 50s.

The city said it wants to focus on the pipeline’s safe operation and ensure that the state regulates the pipeline on a consistent and transparent basis. For now, the issue isn’t expected to be on the council’s agenda in the foreseeable future.

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