U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein has sentenced two former managers of Olympic Pipe Line Co. to prison for crimes that contributed to a gasoline spill and fire in Bellingham, Washington, on June 10, 1999. The incident took three lives, and became a focal point for pipeline safety advocates. Frank Hopf Jr., VP of Olympic at the time of the accident, was sentenced to six months behind bars. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to train workers as mandated by the federal pipeline-safety act. Ronald Brentson, who supervised the pipeline’s control center, was sentenced to 30 days in prison and 30 days home detention for the same offense. Kevin Dyvig, a control-center operator, was sentenced to one year of probation on a misdemeanor charge for negligent discharge of fuel into a creek. RCP has prepared a page containing a summary of the settlements and plea bargains associated with this incident which can be downloaded from RCP’s website here through the DOT Gateway.
Editor’s note: although almost all the discussion concerning the Olympic accident concerns Olympic’s failure to excavate an anomaly discovered during a pig run (which ultimately failed), the criminal conviction was related to Olympic’s training program. According to the NTSB’s report for this accident, which can be downloaded from RCP’s website here through the Pipeline Integrity Management Gateway, Olympic’s technician performed a proper evaluation of this anomaly, and was technically correct when he decided not to excavate this location (although NTSB’s report goes through some torturous logic to try to explain why it should have been excavated anyway). Thus, the prosecutors were unable to convict anyone concerning their work on the pipeline inspection and follow up.
Food for thought: Is your smart pig data evaluation and follow-up process well documented? Do you have systems in place to ensure that ALL significant anomalies are properly evaluated, and that the evaluation is documented and approved? Can you readily access this information years later if necessary? We would be glad to discuss methods to improve your processes and procedures in this area.