NTSB: Corroded pipe, lack of inspections led to gas explosion in W.V.
A corroded gas pipeline that had not been inspected in more than two decades contributed to an explosion in 2012 that destroyed homes and melted a section of Interstate 77 in Sissonville, W.Va., the National Transportation Safety Board said on Monday.
The explosion, just north of Charleston, grew into a raging fire 1,100 feet along the pipeline and more than 800 feet wide. It left a nearly 15-foot-deep crater just off the interstate and turned a picturesque valley with rural homes into a scorched moonscape with mailboxes melted to wood posts and charred foundations.
“Remarkably, no lives were lost in this accident,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. “But the potential for tragedy was clearly there.”
The pipeline was owned by Columbia Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of Columbia Pipeline Group, whose Operations and Project Delivery President Shawn L. Patterson said in a statement had implemented a “comprehensive response program” because of the blast.
“This was a difficult situation for all of us,” Patterson said. “But we recognize and embrace the critical importance of learning from the Sissonville event and applying what we learn to our pipeline system and operational procedures.”
The 20-inch interstate transmission line ruptured at 12:41 p.m. Dec. 11. Despite several alerts at a Columbia Gas control center, the controller did not realize an explosion had happened for 12 minutes, the report said.
A line shutdown took an hour to complete and began only when someone from another gas company told Columbia about the rupture.
Columbia had no automatic shutoff or remote control valves on the line, the report said.
The pipeline had not been inspected or tested since 1988, the NTSB found. A rocky backfill likely contributed to corrosion.
Because the line was in a sparsely populated area, it was not classified as a high-consequence area that would result in stricter testing regulations, the report states.
“We continuously check our lines with foot patrols and/or aerial patrols and maintain and inspect corrosion control systems along our pipelines,” company spokeswoman Katie Dupuis Martin said in an email. “We are a safe company with employees who are committed to keeping their neighbors safe and to following regulations outlined for us by federal and state agencies.”
Officials said it was lucky that nobody was seriously injured. The explosion happened while many people were at work. Traffic on I-77 was light.
“An intense fire raged directly across the interstate for nearly an hour,” the report said. “Had the accident occurred during commuting hours, when traffic would have been significant, severe or fatal injuries could have occurred.”
The blast closed northbound lanes for 14 hours and southbound lanes for 19 hours while crews resurfaced the roadway.
In the valley below the highway, damage extended for hundreds of feet in all directions from the rupture point.
Columbia Pipeline Group subsidiaries serve customers in more than 16 states and have about 15,000 miles of pipeline.
In Pennsylvania, Columbia Gas Transmission operates 7,385 miles of distribution gas lines, which provide natural gas to homes and are much smaller than the large transmission lines such as the one that ruptured, said Jennifer Kocher, a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission spokeswoman.
Columbia Gas Transmission is replacing pipelines across Pennsylvania, Kocher said. The PUC reported no significant incidents in 2013.
Dupuis Martin said Columbia Pipeline Group spent $300 million in 2013 on a pipeline modernization, part of a five-year, $1.5 billion project. The group replaced more than 50 miles of pipeline last year and will replace 35 miles in 2014, she said.
Chris Togneri is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
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.
- LaBar: Future of Rusev in WWE critical
- Steelers’ defense unfazed by noise, believes in potential
- Starkey: NHL playoffs suddenly sublime
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto works to smooth path for business ties with Cuba
- Overhaul possible for West Mifflin’s Century III Mall
- Dormont man missing since Wednesday found dead at Station Square
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Padres, May 29, 2015
- Greensburg train station earns honor from Pittsburgh foundation
- Gorman: Team Dugan gets gold, like a champ
- Weak first-quarter economic report anticipated
- Kiski Valley slugs way to early Legion win