Signs of a Release

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Everyone should be aware of the signs of a potential pipeline release. They can be recalled easily by associating them with the senses of sight, smell and sound. While the signs of a release will vary depending on the product that is being transported, following these guidelines will help you respond and summon help safely.

Do you see blowing dirt, a sheen on the water’s surface or bubbles in a creek, pond or standing water? Do you know of a fire or an explosion near the location of a pipeline? Has a pipeline been exposed after a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood?

Products being transported via pipeline will range from natural gas, which is usually colorless and odorless and is neither toxic nor poisonous, to oil and refined products that are liquid substances with varying degrees of consistency ranging from that of water to thick tar. Some liquids will vaporize if the pressure on the product is decreased when a release occurs. A vapor cloud can be heavier than air and may appear as a fog
covering the ground.

Do you smell an oily or chemical odor? Some compare it to the stench of rotten eggs, or a skunk’s release, or that sulfur smell that lingers in the wake of a recently lit match. But remember, natural gas won’t always emit an odor, not unless an additive has been injected.

Do you hear a hissing, whistle or roaring sound or did you hear an explosion?