On February 22, 2020, a breach in a carbon pipeline owned by Denbury Inc. left 49 people hospitalized near Satartia, Mississippi, and about 300 residents were forced to evacuate.
A Huffington Post story last year shed light on the chaos and its aftermath. The explosion of the pipe unleashed a cloud of green mist, along with a “rotten egg” smell. Nearby people struggled to breathe, with some collapsing in their homes, the article reported.
In May, more than two years after the incident, the federal agency in charge of pipeline safety, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, released the findings of an investigation.
Confirming Denbury’s account of the event, PHMSA found that the pipe ruptured due to heavy pressure caused by ground movement after persistent heavy rains.
But PHMSA also found that Denbury, among other mistakes, failed to prepare for such natural hazards, alert local emergency officials about the incident and educate nearby residents about the pipeline before the rupture.
In its report, the agency proposed a $3.9 million civil penalty against Denbury, which the company can accept or contest.
As a result of the pipeline failure, PHMSA also announced that it would begin new regulation to update safety standards.
“I recently visited first responders in Satartia to hear first hand about the pipeline failure so we can improve safety and environmental protection for the COtwo pipelines and work to protect communities from experiences like this,” PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown said in the May 26 statement. “The safety of the American people is paramount and we are taking steps to strengthen COtwo pipeline safety standards to better protect communities, our first responders and our environment.”
Specifically, PHMSA said it will update standards for emergency preparedness and response, as well as alert pipeline operators to better anticipate hazards from natural causes like what happened at Satartia.