Bryans Road residents surprised by Dominion gas pipeline purge
‘Blowdown’ was part of Cove Point line maintenance; another scheduled for Monday
Friday night’s purge of a natural gas pipeline running through Northwest Charles County startled residents and raised concerns of a possible leak.
Residents who live near the 50-acre parcel owned by Dominion Energy Cove Point LLC on Barrys Hill Road between Bryans Road and Accokeek said that they had not been notified that the purge, called a “blowdown,” had been scheduled.
The property is the proposed site of a natural gas compressor station that Dominion wants to build to serve customers in Southern Maryland.
Dominion spokesperson Karl Neddenien said that the activities at the site were not related to the proposed compressor station.
“Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG has begun a maintenance and inspection outage that is scheduled to last about three weeks, contingent on weather and other conditions,” Neddenien told the Maryland Independent.
“Work will consist of maintenance activities and inspections of equipment and systems involved in the production of liquefied natural gas.”
Neddenien said that during the outage, the company will be conducting “maintenance-related activities” such as equipment inspections on the pipeline, which serves the Cove Point LNG terminal in Calvert County.
According to Neddenien, a “controlled venting” was scheduled for Monday, Sept. 24, though neighbors reported that they heard what they believed was venting on Friday evening.
Another venting is scheduled at the site on either Monday, Oct. 1, or Tuesday, Oct. 2.
To minimize the amount of natural gas to be vented, operators first reduced the pressure in the pipeline prior to the venting operation, Neddenien said.
A Charles County Government spokesperson said that Dominion had notified the county’s emergency services department on Thursday about the pending work. How-
ever, neighbors said they had not received any prior notice from the company.
Attempts to reach the Bryans Road Volunteer Fire Department to find out if they had been notified by Dominion were unsuccessful.
Kelly Canavan, president of the Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Communities Council, wrote in a bulletin to AMP Creek Council members that when she visited the site Friday evening seeking information from the contractors who were doing the work, the smell of natural gas was so strong that it made her and her colleagues “nauseous and dizzy.”
Shortly after, Canavan reported that she and several neighbors could hear a “roaring sound” that she believed signaled a blowdown in progress.
Residents who spoke with the Maryland Independent said that they had not been notified in advance that the work had been scheduled.
Dr. Theresa Lazar of Barrys Hill Road said that she called the Charles County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday to report the noise, which she and her family could hear from inside their house.
Lazar said that they used noise-detector apps on their smartphones to calculate that the sound averaged 55 decibels on Sunday night.
Sheriff’s deputies reportedly took sound measurements of their own, though Lazar said that she hasn’t yet heard what the results were.
Hidden Valley Road resident Christina Shotwell went further, calling the Maryland Department of the Environment and then, at their suggestion, 911 because she feared the sound was due to malfunctioning pipeline machinery.
She described the sound of Friday night’s venting activity as “a rumble” that could be clearly heard inside her house, which is about 1/2 mile from the Dominion compound.
“I wasn’t notified at all about it,” Shotwell said.
Neddenien confirmed that the company did not notify residents in advance about the venting procedure.
“We made all required notifications,” Neddenien said. “No public notification was required.”
Many residents in the Bryans Road-Accokeek area including the Moyaone Reserve have objected to the installation of the proposed natural gas compressor station there, fearing that it would pose fire and health risks, and that its operation would disrupt the tranquil environment with frequent blowdowns.
In March, Dominion sued the county government and the board of appeals in federal court over the board’s denial of a special zoning exception for the compressor station.
However, following the launch of a campaign by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in June opposing the construction of the compressor station, Dominion has since agreed to attempt to find an alternate location.
Earlier this month, the judge in the federal suit agreed to temporarily postpone a hearing that had been scheduled for this week pending the outcome of Dominion’s search.
MDE has also stopped processing two permits related to the construction of the compressor station while Dominion investigates possible alternatives.
Natural gas venting equipment was installed at the Dominion Energy Cove Point LLC property on Barrys Hill Road over the weekend to conduct a purge of the pipeline that serves the Cove Point terminal in Calvert County.
Residents near the 50-acre Dominion parcel in Bryans Road were surprised Friday evening by the sound of a natural gas venting operation about which they had not been notified.