By DAN KRAMER
Forrest Gump was a great movie. At least that’s my opinion. I’ve had people tell me it wasn’t something they enjoyed because it was kind of quirky and just odd.
One example was Forrest rambling on about, well, everything. The entire movie takes place as a story Forrest is telling various people who share a park bench with him, while he waits for a bus.
At one point, he tells a nice old woman how he became rich as a shrimp boat captain. He relates that having all that money was good because his Momma said it’s “one less thing,” meaning he didn’t have to worry about money.
The current and ongoing boom of oil and gas exploration in eastern Ohio has brought about prosperity and wealth for individuals and communities there. But, all that money doesn’t come without environmental worries.
Numerous wells, well pads, pipelines and processing plants have landowners seeing the possibility for problems. Pipelines, for example, are criss-crossing the landscape as they carve up cropland, woodlands, streams, roads and back yards.
There are especially concerns in cropland as pipeline construction has the potential to damage soil health by mixing topsoil with subsoil, disrupting existing subsurface drainage and causing erosion.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources recently updated its Pipeline Standard and Construction Specifications to better address potential for problems from the increased oil and gas activities.
These guidelines will serve to recommend that best management practices be used to protect and restore agricultural drainage and soil health during and following installation of a pipeline.
Although not mandatory, these standards were developed as a technical resource for landowners, pipeline construction companies, local soil and water conservation districts and others to help minimize impacts to Ohio’s soil and water resources.
The revised standard can be found on the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources’ webpage or directly at http://bit.ly/pipelinestandards.
It covers in detail all phases of pipeline development from planning to construction and even post-construction monitoring and remediation. For example, there are recommendations on the removal of topsoil to the proper depth as determined by a soil scientist or technician.
This depth should not exceed 16 inches. The topsoil should be windrowed and stockpiled next to the pipe trench. Deeper subsoils should also be windrowed.
After the pipe is laid in the trench, each soil is put back in reverse order to prevent the mixing of soils and the resulting degradation of topsoil and loss of agricultural productivity.
There are recommendations for the depth that a pipeline should be buried. The depth varies for different locations or conditions.
For instance, a minimum of 60 inches of cover is recommended for agricultural lands such as cropland and pastures. Only 36 inches is recommended for woodland and other non-cropped areas.
For all areas the removal of rocks and backfilling with more consistent fill material will protect the pipe from damage. Rocks greater than 3 inches are to be removed from the surface of topsoil where shallow soil layers exist.
Subsurface drainage is regularly encountered when a pipeline trench in constructed. These drain tiles, whether clay or plastic, are easily damaged and disrupted.
The revised pipeline construction standard extensively addresses the importance of repairing and/or replacing these structures to maintain the full operation of these critical agricultural components.
The guidelines recommend that subsurface drains be repaired using materials of the same or better quality. If the pipeline is installed below a drain line which crosses the trench, recommendations include supporting the repaired drain pipe with steel channel or angle iron, full or half-round steel pipe, or schedule 80 PVC pipe.
Tile maps can often be obtained at your local Soil and Water District office. These can aid in anticipating where lines will be encountered and in marking them prior to or during construction.
The intent of the revised guidelines is simple: Protect our soil and water resources and our ability for continued agricultural use of the land. Frankly, it would be irresponsible of us, as stewards of the land, to do otherwise.
The revised standard is a tool that exists to give us some environmental peace of mind.“Like my Momma always says, ‘It’s one less thing.’”
(Dan Kramer is a district technician with the Tuscarawas Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at 330-339-7976.)