ShareThis Page

Spectra Energy completing repairs to Route 819 after explosion; road could reopen this weekend

| Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 11:00 a.m.

Chuck Morgan hopes things will turn around for his business after PennDOT announced Tuesday that state Route 819 in Salem Township — closed since an April 29 natural gas pipeline explosion in the area — could reopen as early as Friday or Saturday, if work is completed as anticipated and meets PennDOT standards.

The owner of Orchard Hill Animal Supply on Route 819 said he has had nearly no customers since the road was closed.

“Essentially, we have no income. Period,” he said. “We've been here 40 years. We have a pretty good trade here, and we're down to nothing.”

The highway that carries an average of 3,200 vehicles a day has been closed from Route 22 to Evergreen Drive following the massive blast that left one man with extensive burns as it seared about 40 acres of pasture and cropland, destroying one home and damaging several others.

Investigators from Spectra Energy, the Texas company that operates the interstate natural gas transmission line, third-party scientists, engineers and officials from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration continue to probe the circumstances of the blast. The explosion sent a 24 12-foot section of 30-inch pipeline buried in the right of way flying 100 feet as a fireball soared hundreds of feet into the sky on the morning of the blast.

A Spectra spokesman said air quality tests the company conducted May 18 and 19 revealed no contaminants from the blast. John Poister of the state Department of Environmental Protection said the agency is awaiting the results of air sampling it conducted over the course of 24 hours on May 2.

Although work continues at the blast site, Spectra spokesman Creighton Welch said a contractor employed by the company has resurfaced 2,100 feet of Route 819. PennDOT officials previously said the road was closed to the public for the last month in part because of safety concerns about heavy equipment that was brought in to complete excavation at the site.

Welch said after the explosion the highway remained “drivable for the slow-moving and heavy equipment that has been on the road during the investigation.” Spectra's work involved restoring it for normal road traffic traveling at posted speed limits, he said.

Highway agency officials must certify that repairs meet state standards before the road reopens.

That can't happen too soon for Dennis Hoyman, who owns Den's Greenhouse and Nursery on Kennan Drive off Route 819. Although his business is accessible by other, more circuitous routes, Hoyman said it's more than inconvenience that has kept customers away during what is typically his busiest season.

“People don't want to come. They say they're afraid it's going to explode again,” Hoyman said.

He said the road reopening offers him little consolation.

“It's too late for me,” he said.

Debra Erdley and Jacob Tierney are Tribune-Review staff writers. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.