Peninsula News

PG&E asks employees for help finding records

Friday, February 18, 2011

Since the September San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes, PG&E has been ordered to verify records about its system. Now, the utility is sending a letter to all past employees, looking for any pipeline records they might have.

Letters dated Feb. 11 went out to 42,000 current and former PG&E employees and contractors, asking them to call a toll-free number if they have any records relating to any part of the gas pipeline system. The hope is someone will be able to fill in the blanks in PG&E's records, to make sure all gas lines are being operated at the correct, safe pressure levels.

Dan Murphy, 71, worked for PG&E for 45 years as a gas serviceman. He retired in 2005, but just the other day, he got a letter in the mail. Addressed to former or retired PG&E employees, it asked them to look for any records, hard copy or electronic, related in any way to PG&E's gas transmission system. The letter says specific documents of interest include, "strength pressure test reports, pressure charts, and as-built construction drawings for gas transmission pipeline projects." It says the records are needed regardless of how old they may be.

"What we're doing is not just a massive undertaking of, not just reviewing all of our records, but making sure that anyone else out there that may still inadvertently have records, we want to leave no stone un-turned here," PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica said.

The California Public Utilities Commission has given PG&E until March 15 to prove it has accurate records of what kind of pipes are underground in its 1,800-mile urban system.

The order came after PG&E admitted it thought the ruptured San Bruno pipe was seamless. It took the explosion and fire to reveal it was not, and the National Transportation Safety Board has identified a faulty weld where the rupture began.

PG&E has said so far, it cannot find about 30 percent of necessary records.

The letter mentions the 2007 Minneapolis bridge disaster, where the NTSB located critical design records with an employee of the bridge designer.

PG&E switched from paper records to a computer system in the early 1990s. Murphy says he remembers when he was asked to start entering documents about gas meters in that system. He felt then it was inadequate.

"I mentioned to the other guy doing it, I said, 'You know, one of the problem is they don't give us enough room to enter all the pertinent information that should go in there,'' Murphy said.

Murphy does not have any documents, but thinks his brother, who was a PG&E pipeline foreman for 33 years, might.

The NTSB investigation into the cause is still underway. It is holding a fact-finding hearing in Washington the first week of March.

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Tags:
san bruno fire, PG&E, california public utilities commission, NTSB, peninsula news, heather ishimaru
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