Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

This exposed section of pipeline is thought to be inactive; however, sections of active pipeline are also exposed.
Photo credit: —Dwight Patterson

Informal survey finds exposed petroleum pipelines

—Bill Diven

Two Las Placitas Association board members, Dwight Patterson and David Haigh, were surveying the Placitas pipeline corridors when they found about thirty feet of one pipe dangling feet above a watercourse and another exposed by runoff and scuffed by tumbling rocks.

Patterson told the Signpost that he and Haigh decided to walk the eight miles of lines in Placitas after reading about a leak that went undetected in North Dakota, despite monitoring equipment. That ruptured pipe spilled 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek.

Five pipelines run under Interstate 25  and through Placitas in a single corridor that splits in two about 1.5 miles east of the freeway. The pipe hanging in space is located north of Santa Ana Loop about 0.8 miles from the interstate.

At first it was thought that that pipe was part of the Western Refining line moving crude oil from the Four Corners to El Paso, Texas. Western dispatched local staff to investigate and determined the pipe was too small to be its 16-inch line.

"We appreciate people staying on top of this," Western spokesman Gary Hanson said. "You're our eyes and ears out there."

The company flies the pipeline route and runs frequent ground inspections by driving the corridor, he added. The pipeline was built in the mid-1950s and restored to service in 2015 after being idle for six years.

Ownership and use of the exposed pipeline remains a mystery at Signpost deadline, although there is some thought it may be an abandoned natural gas line. The Signpost is awaiting responses to additional queries on the subject.

The LPA members also found several feet of a high-pressure line carrying natural gas liquids exposed near Camino de la Rosa Castilla in a watercourse above Las Huertas Creek. Small boulders were resting against the pipe, and part of its protective wrapping had been scraped away.

The pipeline operated by Mid-America Pipeline Company crosses thirty small arroyos and runs under Las Huertas Creek carrying the volatile liquids at up to 1,500 pounds per square inch, Patterson said.

Mid-American spokesman Rick Rainey said company field crews had spotted the erosion during recent inspections.

"External surface evaluations, as well as internal tests using equipment that detects metal loss and other potential issues, have confirmed there is no damage to the pipeline," he said in an email response to the Signpost. "Plans are currently under way to remedy the situation and personnel will closely monitor the pipeline, which continues to operate normally."

Patterson has been leading an LPA effort on pipeline safety and groundwater protection that has moved from establishing independent monitoring wells in the corridors to moving the pipelines away from populated areas and Las Huertas Creek.

Landscape talk by naturalist Bill Dunmire at Placitas library

—Marian Frear

Noted naturalist Bill Dunmire presents New Mexico's Living Landscapes on January 28, at 2:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library.

New Mexico is third among states of greatest natural diversity, exceeded only by Texas and California. This program will answer such questions as "Why does the countryside around Las Cruces look so different from that surrounding Albuquerque, Taos, or Farmington?"

The slide-illustrated talk takes you through New Mexico's six ecoregions and along some of our magnificent State and National Scenic Byways—from grasslands to mountains to deserts, focusing on the most interesting landscape features and the plants and wildlife that occur there.

The narrative, along with stunning color photography, will provide audiences with an understanding of the elements that define our natural environment and will direct road travelers to many of the state's best-loved natural features.

Recycle your Christmas tree 

—Annemarie L. García

Residents of Sandoval County will be able to have cut Christmas trees recycled for free, courtesy of PNM, the city of Rio Rancho’s Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful Division (KRRB), and Sandoval County. From January 2-13, cut trees that have had all decorations, tinsel, tree spikes, and stands removed can be brought to:

  • Rio Rancho Sports Complex, 3501 High Resort Boulevard (can be dropped off at any time)
  • Sandoval County Landfill, 2708 Iris Road (between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday)

Commercial quantities of Christmas trees will not be accepted and residents are responsible for unloading their trees.

Free mulch will be available at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last; mulching will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and residents are responsible for loading their own mulch. Mulch generated from Christmas trees can be used to provide a better growing environment for plants, city parks, and home landscapes. It helps retain moisture in soil, acts as an insulating blanket to protect soil against temperature extremes, and reduces weed growth.

For 25 years, PNM vegetation crews have donated their equipment and time for this annual event, which is one of the many ways the company demonstrates its support for the environment and works to improve quality of life in New Mexico’s communities. KRRB is a division of Rio Rancho’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department. For further details, call 891-5015.

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