Eva Knott 7:03 p.m., May 17
The Navy says Point Loma residents shouldn't fret about that 57-year-old pipeline carrying more than 300 million tons of jet fuel each year. They shouldn't worry because the "Smart Pigs" are on the case, or, rather are inspecting the casing.
According to a Navy spokesperson, because the pipeline is the main fuel source for Defense Fuel Support Point Loma and Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, strict regulations are in place for the "Category I" pipeline. Those strict regulations require sending ultrasonic tools called, smart pigs, through the pipeline every five years.
The pigs, worth approximately $4 to $5 million a pop, "detect anomalies" from inside the pipe's walls.
"Our personnel – and their families – are residents of these communities, as well," writes Navy spokesperson Kim Longstaff in a August 19 email. "They are dedicated to responsible service and take a personal interest in the safety of our community. As an additional resource, a commercial corrosion protection firm is also under contract to inspect the pipeline twice annually. Since the pipeline is buried and its major weakness is corrosion, the first line of defense is to have a robust system in place to minimize corrosion related problems."
In addition to the pigs, the Navy also hires a "pipeline rider" to inspect the pipe every day. initiatives and maintenance procedures.
Longstaff and the Navy says the main issue isn't deterioration of the pipeline but is damage from third-party construction.
"Encroachment is a key problem and that third-party construction is the number one cause of pipeline damage, not substandard material condition. These are also preventable issues, but we rely heavily on the public and the cities to help us mitigate them. The pipeline and its condition are safe and operable. If it wasn’t safe, we wouldn’t operate it."
In 2008, the Navy shelled out $8 million to inspect the 17-mile-pipeline, and perform some repairs on segments of the fuel line. The next ultrasonic inspection is planned for 2013.