Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, August 22, 2000
NTSB says corrosion found on pipeline
From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, August 22, 2000 - The death toll from a natural gas explosion
has risen to 11, leaving one survivor clinging to life and investigators
searching for the cause of the weekend tragedy.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board have combed
the charred site along the Pecos River where a dozen family members had
been camping Saturday morning when the natural gas pipeline burst into
a ball of flames.
Investigators found corrosion and a thinning of the pipe's wall in a
22-foot section that was blown off the pipeline, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway
said Monday night.
"We visibly observed a significant amount of corrosion at the bottom
of the pipeline," Holloway said. "The corrosion was along the pipe."
An NTSB metallurgist was on scene Monday studying the pipe and planned
to take a section to the agency's lab in Washington for further examination.
Investigators also will analyze maintenance and corrosion inspection
The location of the pipeline explosion, two to three miles north of
the Texas-New Mexico state line on the Pecos River, is an area of highly
alkali soil. It's located just southeast of a salt deposit roughly 4,000
feet thick, which comes to the surface in several areas as salt ponds which
are home to a number of salt mining operations.
The federal government chose to locate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
2,150 feet down in the salt formation, so that the caverns dug out from
the salt deposits will slowly cave in and enclose low-level radioactive
waste containers within over a quarter mile of salt both above and below
the man-made caverns.
Water running over the salt layer empties into the Pecos River at Malaga
Bend, and often raises the level of dissolved salts in Red Bluff Lake,
located just south of the state line, to twice the levels found in the
river at Carlsbad. The salt increases the corrosion levels of water within
the river, though Red Bluff Water Power Control Board General Manager Jim
Ed Miller said because the location of the pipeline rupture was underground,
the river's salt content shouldn't have been a factor in the corrosion
found by the NTSB.
Holloway said this morning that the pipeline was coated with a coal-tar
pitch emulsion to isolate the pipe from the corrosive environment of the
soil and protected with a type of cathodic protection.
According to retired Exxon engineer Bob Atherton cathodic protection
usually involves attaching a sacrificial annode to the steel pipe. "Corrosion
works like a battery. There is a current flow in the soil that causes the
migration of molecules away from the steel in the pipe. The result is corrosion.
A sacrificial annode is a metal that is more easily corroded than the steel
of the pipe. In general terms, the annode attracts the current flow to
itself, and away from the steel," he said.
Holloway said the pipeline was installed between 1950 and 1952, though
the NTSB does not have the full history of the pipeline at this time.
"It's not necessarily consider out of date because of age," he said,
explaining there are too many other factors involved.
The NTSB investigators are gathering that information now and will review
it after the complete their on-site in next day or so and go back to Washington
to continue investigation and conduct lab tests. Holloway added the NTSB
still has found no cause for the blast, and it will be months before a
report is released.
The El Paso Natural Gas Co. pipe ruptured and exploded early Saturday
about 25 miles south of Carlsbad, sending a fireball roaring into the campsite
where the group had been fishing.
The blown-out 30-inch-diameter pipe had been buried 5 to 6 feet underground
at the blast point. The explosion left a 20-foot-deep crater 85 feet long
by 46 feet wide. The pipe is broken off cleanly at one end but is coiled
around itself at the other, Holloway said. Three pieces of blown-out pipe,
ranging from 3-foot to 22-foot long, were blown away from the hole.
Bobby Smith, 43, of Carlsbad died Monday afternoon at University Medical
Center in Lubbock, Texas. His death left just one survivor among the dozen
Smith's 25-year-old daughter-in
Blast recalls similar explosion for café worker
By LEIA HOLLAND
PECOS, August 22, 2000 - Saturday's natural gas explosion north of Pecos
that took the lives of 11 people was easy to visualize for one area resident,
because she and several others came within a few hundred yards of a similar
explosion nine months ago.
Martha Chacon, manager of the Salt Flat Café in Salt Flat, 70
miles southwest of Carlsbad, N.M., said she knows what it is like to see
such a massive flame like the one that tragically killed 11 members of
two families, including five children under the age of six, 30 miles south
of Carlsbad on Saturday.
Last year, a similar explosion happened just east of the café
that blew two tractor-trailer rigs off U.S. 62-180 at Salt Flat, which
is 60 miles west of Saturday's pipeline explosion. The liquid propane line
blast injured the two truck drivers, one critically, and set a nearby gasoline
pipeline ablaze while shooting flames 150 feet into the air for nearly
The blast shut down the main highway between Carlsbad and El Paso and
the land on either side of the highway just east of the Salt Flat Café
still bears the scars from the explosion.
Chacon said the people in the café had seen a cloud of "dust"
that turned out to be a pocket of gas that leaked out of a nearby pipe.
Soon after the customers in the café noticed the cloud the gas ignited
and Chacon said turned the cloud into a ball of flames.
"We saw a big torch cross the road," she said. So hearing the news about
last Saturday's explosion brought back the memory of the explosion in Salt
Flat and reminded Chacon what could have happened.
"When I heard it I thought we were lucky," Chacon said.
Department of Public Safety officials say a spark from a passing school
bus was believed to have caused the explosion, though no one on the bus
The café itself suffered some harmful effects from the fire's
radiant heat, which melted parts of the building's roof, but the cafe was
far enough away from the explosion to avoid any major damage
Chacon said Saturday's news also scared her because there are so many
different gas lines around that an explosion could happen at any time.
"You never know if there is too much pressure in them or what could
happen," Chacon said. "Maybe one of these days we would not be so lucky."
Many pipelines running from Texas to the El Paso area travel through
the Guadalupe Pass area and then through Salt Flat to the west. Pipelines
from Guadalupe Pass travel both south of Red Bluff Lake, and through Reeves
County, and north of the lake into New Mexico, where Saturday's explosion
"There's quite a few of the natural gas lines running through that area,"
said Reeves County Emergency Management Coordinator Armando Gil. "We have
the map here in the office."
Gil stated that they get at least 50-70 annual reports from the pipeline
companies, who tell local officials what they are sending through the lines.
"We have El Paso Natural Gas through our county as well," said Gil.
Saturday's blast involved an El Paso Natural Gas Co. line and was far
more violent than the November, 1999 blast near Salt Flat. It killed all
but one member of two families that chose to camp and fish at an unmarked
but popular campsite on the Pecos River. When the explosion occurred some
were fishing along the river's banks while others slept. Officials said
the families could not have escaped from the fire that consumed the campsite
with a massive flame-thrower.
Chacon said she feels bad for the victims of the recent explosion, especially
for the children.
"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time," she said.
Water, trash questions delay budget hearings
By LEIA HOLLAND
PECOS, August 22, 2000 - Town of Pecos City Council has postponed its
remaining budget workshops until Sept. 5 due to a water tax rate study
being done now, and negotiations with Duncan Disposal for trash pick-ups.
Finance Director Steve McCormick said Monday the proposed budget is
higher than last year's budget because Duncan asked the Council to raise
their fees by $120,000. McCormick said a committee would meet with Duncan
and negotiate the raise, hopefully lowering the budget.
The committee and a team from Duncan are scheduled to meet next Monday
to negotiate Duncan's contract with the city.
McCormick said the city has hired someone to look over information concerning
the water tax rate and put together a study for the Council.
The current water tax rate is at $1.70 per 1,000 gallons while the sewer
rate is 30 cents per 1,000 gallons.
McCormick said the study would help the Council determine whether or
not to raise or lower the water rates.
The Council also discussed Water Superintendent Octavio Garcia's requests
for the Fiscal 2001 budget. The Council focused on Garcia's request for
about $110,000 to fix a water holding tank close to the river.
Garcia said the tank is in very bad shape and won't last much longer.
Mayor Ray Ortega agreed with Garcia and informed the Council he has
seen the tank in question and thinks something should be done about it.
"It's so bad that the roof supports are in the water," Ortega said.
Garcia said simply repairing the damage is not an option because the
walls of the tank are so then they could not support a new roof. He suggested
moving a new tank close to the damaged one.
Councilman Ricky Herrera suggested purchasing a used tank to save money
since that tank would not be used as much when the South Worsham Water
Field is completed.
Garcia told the Council he had asked for money to repair the tank for
many years but his requests where denied.
"In the future, department heads need to emphasize to the Council what
needs to be fixed," Herrera said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Rodriguez asked Garcia to make up a list of priorities
for the Council so projects that need to be done right away could get funded.
McCormick informed the Council that he heard of the possibility of the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers being able to work with the city on the construction
of the South Worsham Water Field.
"Rumor has it they can help us with that project," he said. McCormick
said this morning that he called the number given to him but the person
he would need to talk to was not in at the time so he does not know what
could be done.
He told the Council if the information was true that would cut down
on expenses for the city.
"We could do everything we want to do without drawing all of the $8.3
million," he said, referring to the money the state is planning on giving
the city for the purpose of constructing the South Worsham field.
McCormick also told the Council he set up a new South Worsham fund in
the proposed budget for the purpose of allowing the money to flow through.
The Council does not foresee any reason to raise taxes other than the
delinquent property taxes.
McCormick said the Council raised that tax because the tax collector
has done such a good job in collecting the delinquent taxes.
The Council said they do not want to raise any taxes unless they are
absolutely necessary. Ortega took a line from former President George Bush
by saying "Read my lips, I don't want to and won't raise taxes."
While the Council will not meet again to go over the budget until September
5, they will have their regular meeting at 7:30 a.m., Thursday at City
TNMP seeking suggestions for projects
By ROSIE FLORES
PECOS, August 22, 2000 - Applications for this year's Texas-New-Mexico
Power Company Customer Connection program are due Sept. 1. Anyone interested
in submitting a project for consideration may obtain an application at
TNMP's local office, and complete and return it by the Sept. 1 deadline.
"This program has funded many worthwhile endeavors throughout TNMP's
service area," said Mya Griffin, TNMP public information coordinator. "It's
one way for TNMP to show its continuing commitment to our communities,
and it lets customers have a voice in how the dollars are spent."
The company is willing to fund up to $5,000 per project for qualifying
community-based, not-for-profit initiatives. Customer Connection funds
come from money customers voluntarily contribute to the program when they
pay their bills.
It is pooled together by geographic region and matched dollar for dollar
by TNMP. Customer Advisory Groups then help select from the pool of applications
from the customer-nominated projects, which then receive the funding for
To learn more about the Customer Connection program, the variety of
projects funded or how to receive matching dollars, contact Mya Griffin,
at 447-2112, or 1-800-435-2822, extension 323.
Texas-New Mexico Power Company provides community-based electric service
to 85 cities and more than 232,000 customers in Texas and New Mexico. It
is the principal wholly owned subsidiary of TNP Enterprises, Inc.
Rec department youth volleyball sign-ups continue
PECOS, August 22, 2000 - The Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation
Department is enrolling children for its fall volleyball league now through
Boys and girls entering grades 3 through 6 are eligible to participate
in the volleyball league, with a registration fee of $10 per player.
For further information, call the RCCRD office at 447-9776.
Ted Dickerson Cousins, 85, of Cleburne, died Sunday, Aug. 20, 2000.
A graveside "Remembrance" will be observed at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Aug.
23, at the Dickerson family plot, near the Washington Street entrance of
Cleburne Memorial Cemetery.
She was born Sept. 22, 1914, in Cleburne and was a former Pecos resident.
After a 1938 graduation from Texas State College for Women, she lived and
worked in Midland for many years. She returned to the Granbury/Cleburne
area in the early 1970's.
Cousins was preceded in death by two sisters, Doris Hart Bates and Mariellen
Dickerson Peyton, and one brother, C.D. Dickerson, Jr.
Survivors include one sister, Rebecca Nell Dickerson of Houston; three
nieces and two nephews.
The family requests, that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to one's
favorite charitable organization.
Crosier-Pearson-Mayfield Funeral Home of Cleburne is in charge of arrangements.
PECOS, August 22, 2000 - High Monday 99. Low this morning 72. Forecast
for tonight: Mostly clear. Low 65-70. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Wednesday:
Mostly sunny. High 95-100. Southeast wind 10-20 mph. Wednesday night: Mostly
clear. Low 65-70. Thursday: Mostly sunny and fair at night. Low around
70. High in the mid to upper 90s.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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Copyright 2000 by Pecos Enterprise