Questions Raised Over Safety Of Aging Pipeline

10News Obtains Sought-After Report On Miramar Pipeline

Questions are being raised about the safety of a 17-mile long pipeline that has been a part of San Diego County for 57 years.

  • Read:Miramar Pipeline Report
  • According to statistics obtained by 10News, the Miramar pipeline has been unearthed by erosion twice -- once in 2009, and again in 2010.

    The pipe pumps more than 7 million gallons of fuel a year from tanks near Qualcomm Stadium north to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and southwest along the Point Loma shoreline to the naval base. The pipeline provides power for planes, as well as ships docked in the bay.

    "It's lasted way past its use," mechanical engineer and Point Loma resident Jim Gilhooly said. "The average pipeline lasts 30 years."

    Gilhooly engineered pipes and oil refineries all over the world for 40 years, including the Alaska Pipeline.

    "Who knows, it may burst loose on them, and then you get jet fuel all over your backyard," he said

    Gilhooly said he has been trying to get the pipeline's inspection reports the past five years ever since neighbors asked if he'd check out the pipe's safety record.

    Questions were asked after more than one million gallons of fuel leaked from naval fuel tanks in Point Loma. Those tanks are now being replaced.

    "We saw the spill was very close to the water," said Gabriel Solmer of San Diego Coastkeeper.

    San Diego Coastkeeper, Southern California's largest coastal environmental watchdog, is now taking notice of the Miramar pipeline.

    "You would expect a pipeline of this age to naturally start to deteriorate," Solmer said.

    "I wouldn't be too concerned," U.S. Navy Captain David Pimpo said.

    Pimpo was recently put in charge of the Miramar pipeline and provided 10News with its most recent internal inspection report from 2008.

    The report doesn't quantify risk, but described 55 cases of corrosion, which weakens the pipe; and 575 instances of metal loss, which makes the pipe thinner.

    The Navy also described two cases where part of the pipe's "protective soil cover eroded," revealing the pipe along Point Loma's shoreline.

    "We look at it (the pipe) every single day," Pimpo said. "We have someone that walks that pipe and looks at those exposed areas every single day."

    Pimpo said internal inspections are performed every five years, and added the pipe's walls are one-third of an inch thick.

    "This report raises more questions than answers," Gilhooly said. "These people are doing a partial inspection here."

    The Navy says it has worked quickly to cover the pipe when itÂ’s been exposed.

    Gilhooly said he's never seen a pipeline more than 30 years old without dangerous corrosion.

    "A pipeline is inherently going to be a risk. Whenever you have fuel that goes through a pipe and goes through a residential area, you're going to have risk," Pimpo said. "Understand that under this uniform I'm a resident of San Diego. My family lives here, your family lives here and we have the honor of running this pipeline for this city, and we want to make sure it stays safe."

    The Navy says it is studying a way to reroute the pipeline away from the beach and avoid future erosion.

    There are no plans to replace the Miramar pipeline, which has its next scheduled inspection in 2012.

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