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Pipeline Explosion Accident Attorney

Pipeline Explosions and flooding?

A hidden peril of Flash Floods

Did you know that as of 2023 there were 2,760,135 miles of pipeline in the United States?  Did you also know that of those miles, Texas alone accounts for 489,657?  As the nations top oil producer we also house the largest amount of pipeline miles in the country.  What does this mean for us?  It means that is a lot of exposure to potential pipeline explosions.  Texas is dry and windy, however, we do get substantial rains in various places throughout the year.  Flash flooding is a huge cause for concern where those pipelines lay.  If you or a loved one have been injured in a pipeline explosion,  you need attorneys who are familiar with not only oil companies but the pipeline operators, contractors and sub-contractors responsible for checking and maintaining those lines.  At The Low Law Firm we are ready to assist any family who has suffered from a pipeline explosion.

Call for a FREE consultation 325-455-1889.

Understanding Flash Floods

Pipeline Explosion Accident AttorneyThe National Weather Service defines a Flash Flood as a flood caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, usually less than six hours. Flash floods are sudden and severe floods that can occur within minutes or hours of heavy rainfall or other events such as dam breaks or rapid snowmelt. Unlike regular flooding, flash floods happen quickly and can be extremely dangerous due to their speed and power. These floods can sweep away everything in their path, including vehicles, bridges, and, crucially, oil pipelines.

Causes of Flash Floods

Several factors contribute to the occurrence of flash floods:

  1. Intense Rainfall: Heavy rain over a short period can overwhelm drainage systems and natural waterways.
  2. Topography: Areas with steep slopes or narrow valleys are more prone to flash floods.
  3. Soil Saturation: Preceding rainfall can saturate the soil, reducing its ability to absorb further rain.
  4. Urbanization: Paved surfaces prevent water absorption, increasing runoff.
  5. Dam Failures: The sudden release of water from a broken dam can lead to a flash flood.

Impact of Rain and Floods on Pipelines

Oil pipelines, often buried underground or laid across water bodies, are vulnerable to the effects of heavy rain and flooding. The shifting of saturated soil can cause pipelines to move, bend, or break. Floodwaters can erode the ground around pipelines, exposing them to external damage and increasing the risk of leaks and ruptures. Moreover, the force of the water can dislodge pipelines from their supports, leading to catastrophic failures.

Health Risks of Produced Water Spills

Produced water, a byproduct of oil extraction, contains a mixture of water, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and other contaminants. When pipelines carrying this water are compromised due to flooding, the spills can contaminate local water supplies, soil, and ecosystems. The health risks associated with produced water spills include:

  • Contamination of Drinking Water: Harmful chemicals can leach into aquifers and surface water sources.
  • Soil Degradation: Toxic substances can render soil infertile and harm plant life.
  • Health Hazards: Exposure to contaminants can lead to respiratory issues, skin irritations, and long-term health problems such as cancer.

Frequency of Flash Floods

Flash floods are common in many parts of the world, particularly in regions prone to heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt. In the United States, flash floods are frequent in areas like the Southwest, where sudden downpours can quickly turn dry riverbeds into raging torrents, such as Texas. Climate change is exacerbating the situation, increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, including flash floods.

Notable Pipeline Explosions Caused by Flash Floods

According to The Federal Register there have been several incidents where flash floods have contributed to to pipeline explosions and spills, here we have listed just a few:

  • 2020 Satartia Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Failure: On February 22, 2020, a carbon dioxide pipeline failed approximately one mile southeast of Satartia, Mississippi, releasing approximately 30,000 barrels of liquid carbon dioxide that immediately began to vaporize at atmospheric conditions. The pipeline failed on a steep embankment which had subsided adjacent to a local highway. Heavy rains are believed to have triggered a landslide, which created axial strain on the pipeline and resulted in a full circumferential girth weld failure.
  • 2018 Montecito Pipeline Explosion: On January 9, 2018, a 22-inch transmission pipeline failed in Montecito, California. The incident resulted in a fire and explosion and the release of an estimated 12,000 Mcf of natural gas. Heavy rains and localized flooding contributed to the pipe failure.
  • 2010 San Bruno Pipeline Explosion: Although not directly caused by a flash flood, the incident highlighted the vulnerability of aging pipelines to environmental stressors.
  • 2011 Yellowstone River Oil Spill: Heavy flooding caused a pipeline to rupture, releasing crude oil into the river and affecting local communities and wildlife.

Liability and Consequences of Pipeline Explosions

The liability for pipeline explosions typically falls on the pipeline operators and owners. They are responsible for ensuring the safety and maintenance of their infrastructure. Consequences of pipeline explosions due to floods can include:

  • Legal Repercussions: Companies can face lawsuits, fines, and regulatory penalties.
  • Environmental Damage: Spills and explosions can cause long-lasting harm to ecosystems.
  • Economic Costs: Cleanup efforts, compensation claims, and loss of public trust can result in significant financial burdens.
  • Public Health: Communities affected by spills may suffer health issues and loss of livelihoods.

Flash floods present a significant danger to oil pipelines, with the potential to cause devastating spills and explosions. Understanding the risks and implementing robust safety measures is crucial for pipeline operators to mitigate these threats. As climate change continues to influence weather patterns, the industry must adapt and prioritize environmental and public safety to prevent future disasters.

FAQ: What to Do If You Are Injured in a Pipeline Explosion

1. What Should I Do Immediately After a Pipeline Explosion?

A: Your safety is the top priority. Follow these steps immediately:

  • Move to a safe location away from the explosion site.
  • Call emergency services (911) to report the incident and request medical assistance.
  • Follow any evacuation orders or instructions from authorities.

2. How Can I Get Medical Help?

A: Seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you think your injuries are minor. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Document all medical visits and treatments as this information will be important for any future claims.

3. Should I Report the Incident to Authorities?

A: Yes, report the explosion to local authorities and the pipeline company. This helps ensure a proper investigation and response to the incident.

4. How Can I Document the Incident?

A: Collect as much information as possible:

  • Take photographs and videos of the scene, your injuries, and any property damage.
  • Keep records of any communications with authorities and the pipeline company.
  • Note the names and contact information of any witnesses.

5. Do I Need a Lawyer?

A: It is advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in pipeline explosion cases, such as The Low Law Firm in Abilene, Texas. They can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.

6. What Compensation Can I Seek?

A: You may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Long-term disability or rehabilitation costs

7. Who Is Liable for the Explosion?

A: Liability often falls on the pipeline operator or owner, especially if negligence or failure to maintain the pipeline is proven. An attorney can help determine the liable parties and hold them accountable.

8. How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

A: The timeframe to file a claim varies by state and the specifics of the case. It is crucial to act quickly and consult with an attorney to ensure you do not miss any deadlines.

Pipeline Explosions can have a devastating impact on those around them.  It is imperative that you seek counsel quickly, if you have been involved in a pipeline explosion.  The Low Law Firm in Abilene, Texas has the knowledge, skill and resources to assist you with your pipeline explosion case.  Give us a call at (325) 455-1889.

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