Andrew Caplan’s series on Sabal Trail in the Gainesville Sun continues today as he recounts how this needless pipeline goes through Trenton close to houses where a rupture could take many lives in seconds. This rural area has no emergency crews which are equipped to handle a catastrophe such as Spectra Energy has experienced in the past. They have been fined on multiple occasions for negligence in maintaining the pipes which carry volatile LGN by housing developments, schools and hospitals. Sabal Trail has also been caught lying in its Environmental Impact study which it turned into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which rubber-stamps permits as a matter of course.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
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IN THE PATH OF THE PIPELINE: GILCHRIST COUNTY
A 515-mile snake in their garden
By Andrew Caplan | Staff Writer
TRENTON — The house at Southeast 77th Lane and 79th Court in Gilchrist Countybegins shaking around 6:30 a.m. The people inside have grown used to their new alarm clock: A motorcade of construction vehicles arriving.
Soon, kids gather outside the home to meet a school bus. They stare as they wait at what was once a heavily wooded area, but is now an unfenced, Sabal Trail Transmission easement, where an open-ended pipeline stretches as far as the eye can see.
Dozen of workers begin assembling the Sabal Trail pipeline. Once complete, the 3-foot-wide, 515-mile pipeline will carry up to a billion cubic
feet of natural gas each day from Alabama through Central Florida, connecting to another pipeline in Osceola County leading into Martin County.
Anita King owns the rattling, blue mobile home on the corner. On most days she’s home, on disability and unable to work. Her daughter, Mary Suggs, takes care of her.
She was raised in Ohio, but has lived in the area for nearly 15 years. Not much had changed until recently. King, 50, says the new landscape is terrifying.
The pipeline site is less than 40 feet from her property. She worries for her family and the neighborhood children, including her neighbor’s daughter, who often play in front of the construction site.
“If she gets out of the house, what happens to her?” asked King. “And if she climbs in the pipe and gets scared and stuck in the middle? Who’s going to get her out? Who’s going to know she’s there? They should have that stuff capped off.”
King, who has owned her home next to her parents for 11 years, has many unanswered questions. She admits she knows very little about the Sabal Trail pipeline despite receiving numerous mailings.
“I wouldn’t even read them,” she said. “I’d trash ‘em.”
A police officer often sits in front of her house until workers leave, King said. No protesters have been to the construction site, but she has heard the stories.
On Nov. 12, protesters gathered in Branford after discovering and documenting workers pulling water from the Santa Fe River. Picketers went out to slow down construction of the pipeline, one even handcuffing himself to a water truck. The action ended with 14 protesters arrested on disorderly conduct and felony trespassing charges. Three months later, eight more were arrested. Water protectors have also been raising awareness in the area for the Suwannee River, which is also being crossed by the pipeline, stating it will eventually pollute the Floridan aquifer.
Locals say unless their home was directly impacted by the pipeline or right next to it, Sabal Trail did not notify them, as they did King.
John Peckerman lives down the road from King. He said he grew up in the area and was hopeful a strip mall would be placed where trees were cleared.
“I didn’t know they were actually doing it until they brought their trucks,” he said. “I’m kind of angry that I wasn’t informed more.”
From Peckerman’s front yard, the green pipeline is seen in the distance and the noise from construction can be heard from his living room, even with the TV on. Peckerman said neither the county nor Sabal Trail notified him about the pipeline. His biggest concern is his home value.
Like King, he said he was looking to sell.
King and Suggs will be forced to deal with construction for the next few months, as the pipeline is resting on pallets above ground level. King was informed Sabal Trail would test her water for contaminants, but said no one has checked her water yet.
If they don’t check before gas starts flowing, she asked, how will Sabal Trail know what impact they’ve made to my water? The only thing that could reassure the family that everything will go according to Sabal Trail’s plan, King added, is if they pipeline was moved.
“Why would you choose to put this pipeline in between houses where there’s little kids across the road from us?” Suggs asked. —Contact reporter Andrew Caplan at [email protected] or on Twitter @AACaplan.
Anita King’s home sits across the street from a natural gas pipeline that will pass through Trenton. The Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline is less than 40 feet from her property, causing her to worry for her family and neighborhood, including her neighbor’s daughter, who often plays in front of the construction site. [ANDREA CORNEJO/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER]
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