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Pipeline In San Bruno Explosion Also Sprang Leak In 1988

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A law enforcement official runs towards a massive fire in a residential neighborhood September 9, 2010 in San Bruno. (Getty Images)

A law enforcement official runs towards a massive fire in a residential neighborhood September 9, 2010 in San Bruno. (Getty Images)

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SAN BRUNO (CBS 5) — Nearly nine months after a deadly explosion in San Bruno, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has informed federal investigators that leak repairs were made in 1988 on the same gas transmission pipeline that blew.

>>Photo Gallery: San Bruno Pipeline Explosion

National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday that PG&E recently admitted that the same pipeline had sprung a leak about 9 miles south of San Bruno 23 years ago.

Hersman said that the information was provided to the NTSB in the last month and that it was “very troubling” as to why the utility didn’t disclose it earlier.

“We certainly would have expected to receive that information sooner,” Hersman said.

“If it took them months to realize they had a leak on the same line just nine miles south of the rupture site and only now we’re hearing about it,” she continued, “they clearly weren’t contemplating this information when they were assessing the risk on this line.”

Hersman made the remarks at a news conference in the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood of San Bruno where Line 132 ruptured on Sept. 9, causing an explosion that killed eight people, injured dozens and destroyed 38 homes.

Learning about past problems so long after the explosion probe began hampers federal investigators’ ability to quickly determine what caused the fatal blast, she said. Hersman added that the recent disclosure shows that PG&E’s record-keeping is inadequate.

PG&E. spokesman Brian Swanson said utility staff found documentation on May 20 of the small leak years before. He indicated that the company replaced a 12-foot portion of the leaking pipe at that time.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Hersman discussed the prior leak with the media as she announced two new safety recommendations.

One of the recommendations presses the company to set up new procedures so emergency responders are immediately and directly notified when a possible pipeline rupture occurs.

She also asked the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which enforces federal rules for the safe operation of interstate pipelines, to urge pipeline operators nationwide to improve emergency communications plans and share more information about their systems with first responders in local communities.

Hersman on Wednesday also toured the neighborhood torched in the blast and met with families who lost relatives in the explosion. She also met with local officials and PG&E executives.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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