After a series of deadly accidents, Congress created an office to oversee the nation’s oil and gas pipelines. A decade later, it’s become the can’t-do agency.
On June 10, 1999, a few days after his high school graduation, Liam Wood unexpectedly got an afternoon off work and decided to go fly-fishing on a creek near his hometown of Bellingham, Washington. About 100 miles away, operators missed the signs of a pressure spike in the 16-inch gasoline pipeline that crossed the stream in Whatcom Falls Park.
The pipe ruptured at a point where, several years before, a backhoe had accidentally struck and weakened the 50-year-old iron. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline began to spew into the creek near where Liam stood, staining the water pink.
It took an hour for control room computers to register an alert. Police began to evacuate the park, but Liam was already dead. Overcome by fumes, the 18-year-old had fallen unconscious into the water and drowned. MORE