ShareThis Page
Regional

Heavy rain contributed to Beaver County pipeline blast

| Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, 6:48 a.m.
A gas line explosion sent flames shooting into the sky in Beaver County on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.
A gas line explosion sent flames shooting into the sky in Beaver County on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

An explosion from a natural gas pipeline operating for only a week sparked a fire early Monday that destroyed a Beaver County home and two garages and prompted authorities to evacuate about two dozen other homes in the area.

The 24-inch pipeline’s owner, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Corp., said it was investigating but an early assessment of the explosion site showed there had been “earth movement in the vicinity of the pipeline.”

Center police Chief Barry Kramer attributed that to heavy, continuous rain over the weekend, but he said he’d leave determining the exact cause “up to the experts.”

Nearly 5 inches fell between Friday night and Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

An orange glow lit up the dark-morning sky after the fire began along Center Township’s Ivy Lane around 5 a.m.

“It was just a huge fireball. My house was shaking,” said Ivy Lane resident Toni DeMarco, 54.

Another Ivy Lane resident, 64-year-old Karen Gdula, heard what she said sounded like an 18-wheel tractor-trailer idling outside her bedroom window before the blast.

“The ground shook,” Gdula said. “It looked like it was noon and it was 5 a.m. The flames were shooting higher than the pine trees.”

Residents of between 25 and 30 homes on Ivy Lane and Pine Drive were evacuated to a nearby fire social hall along Brodhead Road and were being assisted by the American Red Cross.

Authorities closed busy Brodhead Road, which is connected with Ivy Lane, and Interstate 376 between the Center and Aliquippa interchanges. Brodhead reopened to traffic by about 10 a.m. and the highway, known locally as the Beaver Valley Expressway, reopened by midday.

About 1,500 people lost power after the explosion brought down six high-tension electrical towers, according Kramer.

Central Valley School District also canceled classes.

One of the few vehicles allowed onto Ivy Lane while the fire burned was a trailer used to remove several horses. Authorities relocated them to a safe area.

Energy Transfer spokesman Christopher Koop said the fire extinguished itself about two hours after it began. The pipeline’s monitoring system detected a problem and closed valves located about 15 miles apart to keep methane gas from flowing into the damaged part of the pipeline, Kramer said.

Ultimately, Kramer said, “The fire burned itself out.”

The methane gas line runs between northern Butler County and northern Washington County, and is part of what Energy Transfer calls its Revolution pipeline. It went online Sept. 3, Kramer said.

It is not associated with Peoples Gas, the natural gas utility that serves the area, or the multibillion-dollar Shell ethane cracker plant being built in nearby Potter.

Workers from Peoples were inspecting their gas service lines in the area to make sure they weren’t damaged Monday, but Kramer said it did not appear as if those lines were compromised.

Multiple agencies will be investigating, including the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Kramer said.

The PUC confirmed it is investigating, but declined to say more about its investigation. DEP spokeswoman Lauren Fraley said DEP had emergency response and oil & gas personnel onsite and will have staff on site today. She said PUC has primary jurisdiction of this pipeline and powerlines involved in the natural gas line explosion.

Late Monday afternoon, Fraley said, DEP staff conducted air monitoring using a handheld device at eight residences on Ivy Lane and found no evidence of gas inside or outside homes.

FERC didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Kramer said the incident needs to be investigated to determine how it happened and if other, similar pipelines in the area that are in-service or under construction pose similar threats.

“I think that’s a question that should be asked to the pipeline industry: Why did this occur?” Kramer said. “Is that something that we can go forward rest assured that this isn’t going to happen again. I can’t answer that other than I am concerned and I would like answers to those questions probably like everybody in this room. We still would like answers moving forward with this,” Kramer said.

Tom Davidson and Tony LaRussa are Tribune-Review staff writer.

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.

click me