Pipeline Problems at St. Edward’s/Sherwood Oaks Neighborhood

This past summer, work began at the south end of East Side Dr. on the St. Edwards University property where there was an underground high pressure natural gas pipeline. The pipeline has been there for at least half a century and runs along the Blunn Creek Preserve and through the center of the campus. The recent construction left a small section of the pipeline protruding above ground and the site was marked as a location where the pipeline had a vent. See Photo #1:

The original contractors appeared to be working with Texas Gas Service. When school started in August, the project appeared to be completed but during September work at the site resumed with multiple private contractors excavating and installing a network of pipes and valves and other apparatus above ground. See Photo #2:

It appears the new construction joins multiple natural gas pipelines in one place so that natural gas can be routed from one pipe line to another or that the pipelines in the center of campus can be removed. This type of work is not regulated by the City of Austin. There are no permits issued by the city and there are no protections for Blunn Creek. Until last week, there was no ground cover or fencing to prevent soil from running off when it rained. Since this is a gas pipeline, the Texas Railroad Commission has oversight and it is not subject to city environmental regulations.

After construction, to ensure there are no leaks, contractors inspect the welding on the pipes. The pipe is wrapped with photographic film and a highly intense radioactive source is put inside the pipe so that flaws or imperfections in the welds can be detected. This is essentially taking an x-ray of the pipe. Then the radioactive source is removed and taken away. St. Edwards University gave no notice of this radioactive testing work to neighbors who live within 60 feet of this site or SRCC. See Photo #3:

Neighbors have been seeking answers from Texas Gas Service and the Texas Railroad Commission. In 2012 an explosion caused by a natural gas leak killed the owner of a North Austin house. In the 1960’s two workers died from a gas leak at the site on St. Edwards Dr.

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