Coastal homeownership has its own challenges

OWNING A home on the coast shouldn’t be a lesson in dreams gone wrong.

For Wayne Higson, the coastal environment offered peace, serenity and a place to get away from it all – until corrosion, wind and water created a nightmare in vacation homeownership.

“People don’t really know how bad things can get until they own a home in this type of environment,” Higson said. “You realize there’s no Yellow Brick Road to follow to get help.”

Higson, 58, of Greenville, N.C., built his dream vacation home in Emerald Isle, N.C., and soon realized the standard construction materials were not faring well in the weather.

He got tired of replacing exterior lighting every few months, and major costs kept creeping up, including repairing the corroded air-conditioning unit.

“Most people don’t know it, but water can run uphill on the Outer Banks,” he said. “Those high winds and water in every direction mean it has to go somewhere.”

For his years of hassle, hardships and heartache, Higson documented his efforts in a recently published book, “Coastal Homeowners: The Complete Photo Guide to Coastal Maintenance” (DWH Publishing LLC, 2011).

The book has more than 300 color photos, each illustrating problems and solutions that promise to help save time and money. Chapter highlights include hardware fasteners and nails, doors and windows, exterior siding and trim, winterizing coastal homes and hurricane preparedness.

“People have to remember that no matter how pretty the day is outside, the weather is taking a toll on their house,” Higson said. “The best thing to do is be prepared and know how to handle maintenance.”

Higson, a general contractor, started his quest in 1992 when he built his vacation home. For more than 10 years he collected information and 4,000-plus photos documenting his work.

“You can go to the store and buy a toaster that comes with directions in different languages, but if you buy a million-dollar home, you are on your own,” Higson said. “That’s just not right.”

In addition to advice and helpful tips, Higson also created a list of 110 manufacturers who sell, use or create coastal-friendly products. Their contact information is included.

“It’s so important to address these issues before they become a problem,” said Dave Barber, who works with Carolina Casual Furniture in Point Harbor and Kellogg Supply in Manteo, both on the Outer Banks, and owns Willington Grill Co.. “Rust is what kills a grill. If people know that before they buy, then they can choose a superior product. This book will help homeowners be better informed.”

Higson said he is already working on a second edition. He has taken more photos and logged different problems that he hopes to highlight.


U.S. Navy Settles Underground Storage Tank Violations at Hampton Roads Facility

The U.S. Navy has agreed to pay a $5,855 penalty to settle alleged underground storage tank (UST) violations at its Building NH94, located at 7918 Blandy St., Norfolk, Va., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today.

There are three 25,000-gallon underground storage tanks at this facility containing diesel fuel. Each UST is required to be tested every three years to make sure the tank is not corroded and that the corrosion protection system is operating properly. During a March 2011 inspection, the inspectors found that these tanks had not been tested since 2004. 

The $5,855 settlement penalty reflects cooperation of the U.S. Navy with EPA in the investigation and resolution of this matter. The Navy has certified its compliance with applicable UST requirements and the tanks were tested for corrosion on April 4, 2011. 

Underground storage tanks must be tested to prevent leaks, because the greatest potential threat from a leaking UST is contamination of groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. These leaks can threaten public safety and health as well as the environment because UST systems contain hazardous and toxic chemicals. Cleaning up petroleum leaks is difficult and usually expensive. Federal regulations ensure that USTs are structurally sound because it is easier and less costly to prevent leaks before they happen.


Pipeline that leaked – safe to reopen

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Energy (DOE) has asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to allow the reopening of the 117-kilometer Batangas-to-Manila white oil pipeline being operated by the Lopez-owned First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC) after the leak test it conducted in December indicated no more leaks in the pipeline.

In a five-page manifestation submitted to the appellate court, Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug recommended that FPIC be allowed to start its operation anew pending the resolution of the petition for a writ of kalikasan with a motion for the issuance of a permanent environment protection order filed by residents of West Tower Condominium and Barangay Bangkal in Makati City who were displaced owing to the fuel leak.

Layug told the CA that the 43-year-old pipeline is still the “safest and most efficient” mode of transporting petroleum products despite of the leakage it experienced since “it poses lower risks to life and limb.”

He noted that the pipeline has a higher level of reliability than transporting the fuel products through lorry trucks as it is not affected by weather, traffic and truck ban in Metro Manila, and provides for complete and timely delivery of petroleum products.

The DOE official added that product loss and incidents of theft and pilferage are minimized.

But since the pipeline has not been operating for three months since the leak test from December 14 to 20, the DOE suggested that another three-day leak test be conducted by the FPIC, under the department’s control and supervision, to allow pressure building and observation of stabilized pressure to ensure operational safety and integrity of the main line of the pipeline and other secondary equipment.

“Considering that the recently concluded leak test indicates that there are no leaks in the WOPL, it is respectfully posited that the operation thereof can now safely resume,” the manifestation read.

“After the lapse of the three days, upon confirmation by the DOE that there are no leaks or equipment issues outstanding, FPIC shall be allowed to continue to operate,” it added.

The DOE also endorsed the recommendation of its technical consultant, Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), for the realignment of the Bangkal segment of the pipeline out of the Magallanes interchange as soon as possible for safety and facilitate maintenance.

The DOE also assured that the monitoring of the pipeline and safety precautions will continue and that its operation will be immediately stopped in case a leak is observed.

It can be recalled that in November last year, the Supreme Court granted the urgent motion filed by FPIC seeking the lifting of the temporary environment protection order (TEPO) to give way for the pressure-controlled leak tests.

The test is said to be crucial in ensuring the structural integrity of the white oil pipeline that was closed on October 27, 2010, after it was discovered as the source of the oil that had been leaking into the basement of West Tower Condominium in Barangay Bangkal, Makati.

Likewise, the Court also remanded the petition for a writ of kalikasan and TEPO to the CA for further hearing and tasked it to conclude the proceedings within 60 days and submit its report and recommendations within 30 days from submission of the parties’ memoranda.

Prior to its closure, the pipeline supplied more than 50% of the petroleum products for the oil depot in Pandacan, Manila, considered as the largest and most important depot in the country.

The depot supplies fuel to 459 fuel dealers in Metro Manila and about 1,800 gas stations in Regions 1 to 4.

The DOE supervised the leak test with SGS expert from New Zealand Emiel Verveer as an independent observer. Representatives from the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Sciences, the UP Institute of Civil Engineering, FPIC and West Tower also observed the test.

Owing to the absence of Philippine standards, Layug told the appellate court that the leak test was conducted in accordance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers standards for “Pipeline Transportation Systems for Liquid Hydrocarbons and Other Liquids.”


Corrosion Mentor & Expert Jeff Didas Joins MATCOR

Jeff Didas
Jeff Didas Joins MATCOR

Doylestown, PA (April 24) – MATCOR, Inc. the trusted full-service provider of proprietary cathodic protection products, systems, and corrosion engineering solutions proudly announced on Corrosion Awareness Day that Jeffrey L. “Jeff” Didas joined the MATCOR Engineering team as Senior Corrosion Engineer.

Didas brings to MATCOR more than 38 years of experience in the corrosion industry, having worked for some of the world’s largest pipeline owner/operators and energy companies.

In the role of Senior Corrosion Engineer Jeff will report to Glenn Shreffler, MATCOR’s Executive Vice President and will be responsible for assisting the Engineering team on all aspects of corrosion control, and overseeing the pipeline integrity service offerings provided by MATCOR.

Shreffler said, “Jeff will provide corrosion engineering solutions to the most complex corrosion problems facing our clients around the world.”  He continued, “Jeff brings a wealth of skills and experiences that will benefit our clients and the entire MATCOR team, and that is priceless.”

Didas sits on the Board of Directors for NACE International and is recognized as the current Treasurer. He has been a member of NACE since January 1, 1975, and has an outstanding track record of leadership and volunteerism within the organization.

Didas has delivered many presentations and published several technical papers at NACE conferences as well as the Appalachian Underground Corrosion Short Course. In appreciation for his many years of commitment to NACE, he received the Distinguished Service Award in 2001.

Jeff Stello, MATCOR’s President and CEO said “We are thrilled to add someone like Jeff Didas to our Engineering team.  His skills, experiences and reputation are unmatched in our industry.  We are confident that Jeff will improve our ability to better serve our clients and to add value in many other ways such as helping to develop younger engineers and technicians on the MATCOR staff.”

Didas attended Thomas A. Edison State College in Trenton, NJ, where he received his BSET in electrical engineering. He acquired his ASEE in Electronics Technology from Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield Mass.  In addition, Didas is certified as a NACE Corrosion Specialist, Cathodic Protection Specialist, Coatings Specialist, Chemical Treatment Specialist and a Level 3 certified Corrosion Inspector and is an SSPC certified Protective Coatings Specialist.  Along with his full-time role at MATCOR and responsibilities at the NACE Board of Directors, Didas is also a NACE Cathodic Protection instructor.

The World Corrosion Organization has designated April 24, 2012 as Corrosion Awareness Day

Corrosion Awareness Day is to highlight the estimated $2.2 trillion annual cost of corrosion worldwide (3 to 4% of GDP of industrialized countries) reflecting in part many decision-makers in industry and government not fully understanding the consequences of corrosion and how critical it is to control it.

However, the potential to reduce that cost by $660 billion annually through appropriate application of existing corrosion abatement technologies is readily achievable through access to and use of highly experienced corrosion professionals, harmonizing standards, along with continuing education and training all underpinned by promoting greater corrosion awareness.

MATCOR is committed to public safety, environmental stewardship and innovation. Our proprietary cathodic protection systems prevent and control corrosion from occuring on expensive infrastructure assets, new and old. In this spirit, MATCOR celebrates Corrosion Awarness Day with the launch of the website.

Corrosion Awareness Day Builds upon Earth Day, April 22.
Earth Day highlights the damage to the environment, and impact on people. It also highlights the waste of resources, such as water, resulting from corrosion pipelines, treatment facilities, and process industry equipment.

Learn more about MATCOR at

2 of New Jersey’s elected officials call for gas pipeline guidelines to better protect urban areas

Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and Rep. Albio Sires (D-13th) are calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to better protect highly-populated urban areas from the explosive threat of natural gas pipelines.

Arguing that PHMSA fails to safeguard densely-packed large urban populations, the officials are specifically demanding that PHMSA adopt new rules regarding the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines.

“As they presently stand, PHMSA pipeline safety regulations fall woefully short of protecting dense urban areas,” said Mayor Healy. “The agency imposes its strictest safety standards on pipelines in cities that have as few as two four-story buildings. In Jersey City, we are home to the state’s five tallest buildings and have hundreds of residential and commercial buildings well above four stories in a small geographic area which is not even contemplated by this regulatory agency.”

Under PHMSA regulations, Healy said, cities as different as Jersey City and Huntsville, Alabama, receive the same consideration for pipeline construction, even though Jersey City’s population is about 20 times larger than Huntsville.

Healy’s plea to PHMSA comes as another federal agency is considering whether to green-light a proposed natural gas pipeline that Texas-based Spectra Energy hopes to build. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the proposed pipeline would include 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new stations, and other related modifications in Linden, Jersey City, and Bayonne. In Jersey City, the underground pipeline route would run through nearly every municipal ward and near such sensitive areas as Jersey City Medical Center, several schools, the Holland Tunnel, the New Jersey Turnpike, and transportation infrastructure near the Jersey City-Hoboken border. Because of the pipeline’s close proximity to sensitive areas, local activists and city officials have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure.

To ensure that PHMSA’s regulations better reflect and protect urban areas the city, with the backing of Rep. Sires, has filed a petition asking PHMSA to change its pipeline safety regulations.

The city’s proposed regulatory changes include the addition of new classifications to PHMSA’s rules that reflect cities with mid-rises, high-rises and skyscrapers, and the significant increases in population density that correlate with those structures, and the development of more stringent safety standards to protect large cities.

In response to the city’s request to PHMSA, Spectra spokeswoman Marylee Hanley told the Reporter, “Spectra Energy is committed to building one of the safest natural gas pipelines in North America to help meet New Jersey and New York’s energy demands. The New York-New Jersey Expansion Project meets and often exceeds the highest federal safety requirements. For example, in several places in Jersey City we are exceeding Class 4 code – using HDD’s in the most densely populated areas to bury the pipe up to 180 feet deep, using thicker wall pipe and have added an extra mainline valve.”

But William Schulte, an attorney at Eastern Environmental Law Center who represents Jersey City’s No Gas Pipeline, said, “We often see companies claim that they are being safe and responsible because they are meeting regulatory requirements. But the fact is sometimes we see that the requirements themselves do not adequately protect public safety and welfare.

We commend Jersey City in its efforts to achieve more stringent safety standards for pipelines in ultra-dense urban areas such as Jersey City.”

SOURCE:Hudson Reporter – Healy Sires call for gas pipeline guidelines to better protect urban areas

Anthony Wayne Bridge (Ohio) to close in 2013 for 2 years

Toledo’s Anthony Wayne Bridge will be closed to all traffic for two years, likely to start sometime in 2013, as part of a three-year, $50 million overhaul of the 81-year-old structure by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The fundamental main-span appearance of the bridge — which carries State Rts. 2, 51, and 65 over the Maumee River and is the last suspension bridge on Ohio’s state highway network — will not change. The first approach span on either side of the suspension spans will be completely replaced during the project with new two-span structures.

Deck replacement on all the other spans is planned, along with joint improvements, cable repairs, and corrosion removal on the bridge’s steel girders, said Theresa Pollick, a department spokesman in Bowling Green. A separate painting contract will be issued after all structural and deck work is done.

The shutdown will be required because of the complete replacement of the two approach spans, Ms. Pollick said.

The spans to be replaced, which have deck-truss designs, are “fracture critical,” meaning that if certain parts of their structures were to break, they lack the backups necessary to prevent a collapse.

“The closure duration is necessary for the amount of work we must do and for the safety of those who travel the bridge during construction,” said Todd Audet, the transportation department’s district deputy director.

As the last suspension bridge on the state system, he said, “it’s important to ODOT to preserve it.”

The Anthony Wayne Bridge — also known locally as the High Level Bridge — gained its distinctive status on Feb. 22 when the transportation agency dynamited the Fort Steuben Bridge over the Ohio River between Steubenville, Ohio, and Weirton, W.Va. No other suspension bridges still standing in Ohio, or across the Ohio River, are part of the state system, the agency said.

The Anthony Wayne bridge last underwent major repairs in 1997 and 1998, when its concrete deck was resurfaced, some steel suspender cables were replaced, its main suspension cables were wrapped with weatherproofing material, and other repairs were made.


State Hearing to Focus on Increasing Funding for CA Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission is seeking to add seven new positions to its gas safety division 

A state assemblyman will be leading a hearing today to talk about possibly beefing up state regulators’ ability to oversee pipeline safety in the wake of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, who chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation, will be conducting the hearing from 9 a.m. to noon in the state capitol. The legislators will be reviewing the increased funding the California Public Utilities Commission has received to strengthen its safety oversight and enforcement over gas, electric, communications and rail public utilities throughout the state.

In particular, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposes a budget of $5.896 million for the commission and increasing its staff to 41 people, which would include seven new positions in its gas safety division and an additional $300,000 to build a gas safety database.

Investigators and critics blasted the CPUC after the PG&E pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood because it only had nine inspectors, who were each responsible for overseeing the safety of an average of 11,000 miles of pipeline.

The CPUC has since added nine more safety inspectors—a move that reflects a change in the culture of the commission, according to a staff report that explained the increased funding.

The “CPUC admits that policy objectives took priority over safety prior to the San Bruno explosion,” the staff report said. The “CPUC’s reactive safety strategy, premised on the assumption that utilities recognized public safety as their top priority, was inherently misguided.”


PHMSA Proposes New Rule to Increase Enforcement of Pipeline Excavation Programs

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed new procedures geared to strengthen excavation damage prevention programs and increase penalties for violators.

Excavation damage continues to be a leading cause of all U.S. pipeline failures and is the single greatest threat to the safety, reliability, and integrity of the natural gas distribution system. Excavation activities accounted for more than 25 percent of fatalities resulting from pipeline failures in the U.S. between 2002 and 2011.

“Safety is our top priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It is important for states to have strong and effective enforcement programs as we work together to crack down on violators of these important laws.”

The proposed rule will encourage states to strengthen their excavation damage prevention enforcement programs, provide more protection for underground pipelines, and allow for federal enforcement against violators in cases where state enforcement may not occur. Specifically, it would revise and strengthen the federal Pipeline Safety Regulations by establishing:

  • Criteria and an administrative process to determine the adequacy of a state’s excavation damage prevention law enforcement program;
  • Federal requirements that PHMSA will enforce against excavators in states determined to have inadequate damage prevention enforcement programs; and
  • An enforcement process to impose federal fines and penalties for violations.

These new procedures would also address a congressional directive requiring PHMSA to establish procedures to evaluate state damage prevention enforcement programs. By law, PHMSA must establish these criteria prior to any attempt to conduct federal enforcement proceedings in a state where an excavator damages a pipeline.

“Those who violate damage prevention laws must be held accountable,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “We will continue to work to strengthen damage prevention laws, partner with states to strengthen their enforcement programs, and impose stiffer fines and penalties for these types of pipeline failures.”

For more details about the proposed rule, including comments received from the agency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, visit PHMSA’a website at


Corrosion Work on George Washington Bridge will take 10 years

Peter Zipf sounds more cardiologist than civil engineer when he talks about subjecting the George Washington Bridge to the equivalent of the classic battery of tests for heart disease and finding the first signs of plaque.

“It really is a little like giving somebody an EKG and checking their cholesterol levels,” said Zipf, the Port Authority’s chief engineer. “There are certain things you know you have to watch for, to catch them before they go too far.”

And chief among those certain things, as a bridge ages, is the corrosion that can sap the strength of its steel.

“Moisture is the big culprit,’” continued Zipf. “You have to constantly monitor the amount of corrosion and the rate of deterioration, and then determine when to intervene.”

The GWB’s test results have spurred the Port to intervene now and undertake the biggest rehabilitation in the 81-year history of the world’s busiest bridge. When the work is completed in 2022 – yes, 10 years from now – the Port will have spent $1.5 billion, a piffle in comparison to the $6-billion-to-$8-billion that it would cost to build the GWB today.

The centerpiece of this your-tolls-at-work program will be the first-ever replacement of the GWB’s suspender ropes, all 592 of them. The ropes, vertical bundles of woven steel wire that attach to the four main cables and support the deck, will be replaced a couple or three at a time to keep the 600,000-ton bridge on an even keel.

To assist, the Port, fittingly, has hired Ammann & Whitney, the consulting engineering firm founded by Othmar Ammann, the man who designed and built the GWB and five other suspension bridges in the city.

The Port will also rehabilitate the upper level’s deck (work already in progress), remove the lower level’s original, and failing, lead paint, rebuild the 177th and 178th Street ramps as well as the multiple ramps to the GWB bus station and repair the Center and Lemoine Avenue bridges.

“The bridge can withstand this extreme work because it’s very robust in terms of strength – remember it was built to handle rail,” explained Zipf. “So that extra strength becomes a safety factor that gives the bridge the tolerance for rehabilitation.”
(Careful readers will recall the Thruway Authority will spend more to build the new Tappan Zee Bridge strong enough to support rail – or serious rehabilitation in the next century, if rail is never added.)

Does any or all of this mean the bridge-and-tunnel crowd is doomed to construction delays at the GWB for 10 years?
“In all of our work, through design, staging of construction and so on, we strive to minimize the impact on traffic,” pledged Zipf. “We’ll only close a lane during off-hours or at night, so if you cross the bridge at rush hour, you aren’t going to be aware that anything’s going on.”

…For 10 years.