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Section 13: Hazardous Materials

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Safety Precautions

TxDOT employees should become familiar with the hazards involved with transmission of gases, petroleum products, waste materials, and electrical power.

The guidelines and standards for high-pressure gas and petroleum lines, as set forth in the UAR, should be observed when dealing with the accommodation of any pipelines carrying hazardous liquid or gaseous products. Pipelines carrying hazardous materials are required to post warning signs and signs of identification of product along, or at, the right of way line of the State Highway System. Consider the following:

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  • High-pressure gas and petroleum lines pose a risk of explosions.
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  • Pipelines that have carried hazardous materials must be purged, capped, and filled before they can be abandoned according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Texas Railroad Commission requirements. Be aware that petroleum byproduct lines may contain poisonous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide. Lines carrying poisonous gases must NOT be classed as common carriers and allowed to run parallel in the right of way.
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  • Spillage from any pipeline source, other than potable water lines, should be reported to the District’s Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Coordinator.
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  • Employees should be aware that BOTH low- and high-pressure gas lines pose a serious threat.

Sanitary sewer lines may also pose hazardous conditions. Consider the following:

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  • Avoid contamination of clothing.
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  • Report spillage or leaks to the District’s HAZMAT Coordinator.
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  • Sewer gases are highly combustible and pose a threat of explosion. The gases create a danger working near or within the sanitary sewer manholes.

Overhead or underground power lines can have hidden hazards and should be approached cautiously. Things to watch for are:

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  • Dead power lines and equipment can contain enough static electricity to cause death. Never assume that power lines or equipment are safe until tested by qualified personnel.
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  • Active underground power lines can build up considerable static electricity along the line itself and transfer over to metal casings.

Telecommunication lines, although having low amounts of voltage, present the following hazards:

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  • glass particles in fiber optic lines can easily be embedded in skin and cause severe irritation; and
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  • looking directly into active fiber optic line may cause eye damage.

Another hazard associated with utilities is asbestos. The most obvious hazard may occur during removal of asbestos pipe, if approved. If any portion of the pipe is crushed, asbestos particles thus released into the atmosphere pose an inhalation threat.

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One Call Requirements

The Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act for Texas, (found in Utilities Code, Section 251.153), requires that all one-call centers share notifications of excavations of 18 inches or more.It also requires that the Texas Underground Facility Notification Corporation (TUFNC) oversee compliance with the law. All owners of Class A facilities (electric, gas, petroleum, steam, and telecommunications) are required to register with and join a one-call system such as 1-800-DIG-TESS.

All excavators must contact a notification center at least 48 hours before digging. This law also requires State personnel to make notifications when they will be involved in excavations of 18” or more, and are within 10 feet of the right of way line of any State maintained roadway. Utilities Code, Section 251.004, clearly states “Excavation by an employee of the Texas Department of Transportation on a segment of the State highway system is not subject to this chapter if the excavation is: (1) less than 18 inches in depth; and (2) more than 10 feet from the right-of-way line.” In addition, Utilities Code Section 251 does not apply to a contractor working in the public right of way under a contract with TxDOT.

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Monitor Wells

Since monitor wells are not a utility issue, but rather an underground storage tank issue, questions involving monitor wells in a utility adjustment require a temporary use of a right of way highway agreement. Contact Maintenance Division for more information.

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Geophysical Exploration on Highway Right of Way

Refer to TxDOT’s Use of Right of Way by Others manual, Chapter 1, Utility Policy.

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Contaminated Sites

TxDOT will not take possession of land, which has been contaminated by oil or petroleum leakage. If a substation, transformer storage site, or an underground storage tank is involved in an adjustment and the site will be incorporated into the right of way, the utility will need to execute an ROW-N-PSTRA, Petroleum Storage Tank Removal Agreement.

If there is no storage tank but the ground is contaminated, the utility will need to execute an ROW-Indemnity, Indemnity Agreement with the State.

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