By John Ramos

LAFAYETTE (KPIX 5) — PG&E claims an above-ground gas pipeline running through a park near Lafayette is safe, but some old emails from the company surfaced that have neighbors wondering if the utility can be trusted.

The whole thing began in 2015 when Lisa Schreiber, a resident who lives near Briones Regional Park, was hiking with a group of Girl Scouts on the Buckeye Ranch Trail. She noticed the 40-foot pipeline spanning a ravine.

“And one of the mothers was a civil engineer and we walked past the pipe and she said, ‘Oh my, that doesn’t look good at all,'” remembered Schreiber.

So she wrote emails to PG&E, warning them about the pipe. At first the company denied the pipe was even theirs, But eventually they wrote that, while the pipe was not leaking, it should be “within three feet underground and has become exposed over time due to soil erosion.”

An email six months later said the pipe would be part of a summer program to “rebury exposed lines.” That was four year ago.

“And just yesterday they said, ‘Oh, we mis-communicated. It’s OK. Um, so everything is OK,'” Schreiber said.

On Wednesday, a PG&E crew was putting up new signs marking the pipeline’s location and which sections of crumbling insulation have been repaired.  But the company says the prior emails about the pipe being re-buried were a mistake.

While she declined to comment on-camera, PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian re-issued a written statement from two weeks ago saying, “We want the East Bay community to know that the pipeline in Briones Regional Park is safe. It has been, and continues to be, monitored as part of ongoing maintenance activities.”

Area residents remained wary.

“I don’t trust them,” said Shreiber. “They don’t have the community trust. They try to earn money, right?  They try to make money and they do a trade-off on risk, right?”

And she is not alone in that feeling. Hikers Kay Ingles and Nancy Staley noticed the sagging pipeline for the first time Wednesday. They immediately criticized PG&E’s handling of disasters like the San Bruno pipeline explosion and the wildfires in wine country and Paradise.

“We’re gonna tell you it’s safe until it isn’t,” said Ingles. “And once it does something — blow up or whatever — then we’ll say, ‘OOH, I guess we were wrong!'”

PG&E said Wednesday that they have re-buried eight sections of exposed pipeline in Briones Regional Park, but the pipe spanning the ravine was never meant to be underground. They also maintained the emails saying otherwise were a misunderstanding.

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