Residents near CO2 pipeline rupture in Mississippi share their story

Proponents of CO2 pipelines say a similar leak would be next to impossible, while those against the pipeline fear a leak is just a matter of time.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 5:25 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -In February 2020, residents of the small town of Satartia, Mississippi, feared for their lives when exposed to the contents of a CO2 pipeline rupture.

Proponents of CO2 pipelines say a similar leak would be next to impossible, while those against the pipeline fear a leak is just a matter of time.

The night of the pipeline rupture still haunts Linda Garrett’s mind.

“I thought I was gonna die,” said Garrett.

They had no idea what happened or how to stop it.

“My daughter was screaming, and my grandbaby was on the floor,” said Garrett. “I can’t breathe!”

Dan Zegart, with the Climate Investigations Center, interviewed many of Garrett’s neighbors and detailed what happened the night of a complete break of the line.

“From the moment the pipeline blew at 7:07 pm, and the moment that people started passing out, half a mile, three-quarters of a mile from where the pipeline is, it was literally a matter of a few minutes,” said Zegart.

Resident Michelle Douglas was in her backyard when she felt a heavy pressure on her chest and couldn’t breathe.

“I gotta get back in the house, somethings wrong,” said Douglas.

She never made it inside, passing out on her back porch.

According to a Government report, 45 people were hospitalized due to the leak.

“We ain’t gonna make it. That was the last words I said to 911,” said Garrett.

Proponents say there are 5,000 miles of CO2 Pipelines safely operating across the country.

Summit Carbon Solutions is one of two CO2 Pipeline applicants in the state. When asked about the leak, CEO Lee Blank claims there is a difference.

“The comparison to Mississippi is that had hydrogen sulfide in it. Our pipeline carries just CO2,” said Black.

But a Government report released May 26th reveals something different. CO2 readings were as high as 28 thousand parts per million inside homes. That’s over five times the maximum safety levels set by OSHA.

The hydrogen sulfide that Black points to as the culprit for causing illness was not even detected on a third-party contractor’s sensitive equipment.

Spokesperson Jesse harris with Summit Carbon Solutions says the Mississippi leak was a rare combination of events. “This incident involved an extremely rare combination of events, including unusual ground movements (overstressing the pipeline), rare failure mode (complete guillotine), delayed operator response, and weather conditions/topography that contributed to the severity of the incident,” said Harris.

What a pipeline leak could look like in South Dakota will be submitted to the Public Utilities Commission in the form of a dispersion model. Although it’s a required submission, the timeline is up to the applicant, according to South Dakota PUC Chairman Chris Nelson.

“It isn’t until the actual hearing, when all of this type of information will be submitted as an exhibit. And a witness will be put on a witness stand and will present and defend that particular exhibit. And so the type of thing that you just mentioned, I could certainly see coming in through the hearing process, but it’s certainly up to the company to determine how they plan to play their case,” said Nelson.

But Zegart believes those who live near CO2 pipelines anywhere have every reason to be concerned.

“This is not the fizzy bubbles in your root beer, you know,” said Zegart. “This is something. It’s an industrial product.”

Thankfully there were no fatalities regarding the Mississippi leak. Dakota News Now reached out to the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration to inquire how their report lists no injuries while also detailing a number of people hospitalized, and we have not received a response.