A natural gas pipeline exploded at a gas facility in a Southwestern Pennsylvania town Friday, generating a massive fireball that demolished a nearby home, damaged several others, and left a resident with serious burn injuries.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection reported that the pipeline blast occurred in a 36-inch pipeline at a complex owned by Texas Eastern Transmission, a unit of Spectra Energy Corp. of Houston, in Salem Township, about 20 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Some local residents told the York (Pennsylvania) Dispatch that they always feared something could happen at the gas complex, and on Friday morning around 8:30 those fears became a reality as the ground shook with a resounding boom and flames stretched to heights that one witness described as “terrifying.”
A man who lived near the complex was taken to the burn unit of a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment. The extent of his injuries has not been disclosed. A witness told the York Dispatch that the man’s home was burned and ruined by the blast. Witnesses also said the vinyl siding of another home melted in the heat as roads near the site steamed from the heat.
The utility shut down the pipeline and flow of gas within an hour of thee blast, but officials warned that residual gas could continue to burn for hours.
Several investigations are underway. Federal regulators and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission officials are conducting the lead investigations. A state fire marshal and the pipeline company are also investigating the blast, while Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is assessing the impact of the explosion on other gas wells and utilities in the area and the extent of the environmental damage.
Authorities have established an evacuation zone around the blast site that will remain in effect until Texas Eastern’s facility is deemed safe.
“Today’s explosion is a tragic reminder of the dangers dirty fuels pose to our communities,” Joanne Kilgour, director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club , said. “…We urge state and federal agencies to conduct a thorough investigation and hold Spectra accountable for today’s disaster and bar it from reopening this pipeline until a full review is conducted.”