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On January 31st Mick questioned the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources over the dangerously low depth of gas pipes being laid in Dublin at the moment. The Minister has committed to contacting Dublin City Council to confirm if this procedure meets safety regulations. You can read the full discussion below or watch it here.

Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason Bord Gáis is being allowed to place a high pressure gas main at minimum level depth along main residential areas in Dublin city; and his views on the cost implications and disruption for other utilities. Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The matters raised by the Deputy are operational matters for Bord Gáis Éireann, BGE.  The company operates in accordance with the safety framework established by the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, which has statutory responsibility for gas safety.  In addition, in accordance with section 39A of the Gas Act 1976, as amended, the CER has responsibility for the assessment of applications to construct transmission pipelines.  I have no function in these operational matters.  BGE owns and operates the national transmission and distribution gas network.  BGE and the CER have advised that all transmission pipelines, including those in residential areas, are designed, constructed, tested, operated and maintained in accordance with Irish Standard 328:2003, Code of Practice for Gas Transmission Pipelines and Pipeline Installations. I understand that pipelines in suburban and urban areas are constructed using high grade steel pipe and are laid with a minimum depth of cover of 1.2 m throughout.  In some circumstances and over short sections, where existing major services are located and cannot be moved, it may not be possible to meet this depth of cover.  In these cases, additional pipeline protection measures, such as concrete impact protection, are put in place in accordance with Irish Standard 328:2003.  Once commissioned, a scheduled routine maintenance and inspection programme is applied to all pipelines.  Urban streets often contain numerous different utilities in close proximity to each other, including gas, electricity, telecoms, drainage and water.  The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 place the responsibility for identification and avoidance of existing infrastructure on the party carrying out the works.  BGE, in carrying out pipeline projects, always seeks to minimise the impact of the construction works on the existing infrastructure along the route. I understand the Deputy is referring to the Santry to East Wall gas pipeline.  In regard to that pipeline, the consent of the CER to BGE’s undertaking of these works was informed by the advice of consultants engaged by the CER. Deputy Mick Wallace: I know from our own civil works over years that best practice for a gas main in built up areas is 2 m.  Dublin City Council would have expected it to be laid at a depth of 2 m.  Laying it at a depth of 1 m is detrimental to anyone coming afterwards to install infrastructure for water, drainage, telecoms or electricity.  We are looking for trouble by putting this pipe at a depth 1 m.  The city council is well aware of that but when the contractor for Bord Gáis was asked why best practice was not being followed, the response was that there was insufficient money and "it is the economy, stupid."  The guidelines are not strict enough because everybody knows that where a spaghetti junction of services already exists, the new pipe has to laid at a depth of 2 m so as to go under the existing infrastructure.  Rather than observing the industry's best practice, the work is being determined by costs.  This is going to put the safety of those who live near the pipe in danger.  It is all very well to speak about putting the pipe in place and covering it with whatever safety structures one likes but it is nonsense to put a pipe of this size and pressure so close to the surface. Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I am somewhat puzzled by Deputy Wallace's comments.  I am told by my technical people that the Deputy has experience of this area but the clear advice is that the project is being done to standard.  I cited the relevant standard and the code of practice for gas transmission pipelines and pipeline installation.  The standard requires infrastructure to be laid at a depth of 1.2 m and, where there are other utilities, additional reinforcing measures must also be installed.  This is the first time I heard the phrase "it is the economy, stupid" in this regard.  As much of the work was completed during the boom, I cannot see how the economy would have been an issue.  I am not aware that Dublin City Council has challenged what I have said.  I would be happy to ask Bord Gáis to meet the Deputy to discuss the matter.  It is not a matter of opinion.  If a standard has been established and is being complied with, that is the professional assessment.  Deputy Wallace may have a different assessment.  Let us hope it is never tested because neither of us want an accident to occur.  The advice I have received suggests that the work is done to the highest standard. Deputy Mick Wallace: This pipe is not being installed during the boom time.  An engineering company is currently working on it with three different crews. Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Is the Deputy referring to a particular area? Deputy Mick Wallace: They are working on Swords Road, Malahide Road and Griffith Avenue.  The specifications to which the Minister refers are fine in virgin ground but where existing services are in place, best practice demands that new infrastructure should go underneath them at a depth of 2 m.  I ask the Minister to find out from Dublin City Council whether it is best practice to put the pipe at 1 m beneath existing services. Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I will do precisely that and will communicate the reply to the Deputy.

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Namaleaks is a project that seeks to uncover possible injustice and poor practice related to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and financial institutions in Ireland.


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