Natural Gas pipeline explodes
Pressure testing breaches pipeline in wetland
By TOM KANE
MILFORD, PA - A natural gas pipeline exploded near the intersection of Route 2 and I-84 near Milford, PA, throwing up a geyser that witnesses said looked like Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
No one was injured.
The 60-year-old pipeline, which is owned by the Columbia Gas Transmission Company, was being tested by the company and exploded on Wednesday, November 5 at 2:00 p.m. A large section of the 14-inch pipe was hurled about 400 feet from the point of the explosion. The line was automatically shut down by the monitoring system that the company maintains on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week schedule.
The pipeline will connect to the new Millennium Pipeline, which is being constructed in New York State and has to match the pressure of that pipeline before it can be connected. Since the pressure of the Columbia line is at a lower intensity, a gradual increase of the pressure was the reason for the testing.
We are very concerned that this kind of accident doesnt happen again, especially in a residential area, said Rich Caridi, chairman of the Pike County Commissioners, at their meeting on November 12. We have sent Susan Beecher, director of our conservation district, and some other emergency responders to investigate.
The explosion occurred in the Sawkill River watershed and did not do any real damage as far as we can see, Beecher said. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction on pipelines, sent a forensic team to the site and is monitoring the repairs. The site is a muddy mess because of the heavy equipment that is needed to repair the breech.
Beecher said that the pipeline travels through residential districts, which adds to the concern about future explosions. Luckily, this was in an isolated area, she said.
The event was not an explosion but a rupture, said Kelly Merritt, Columbia spokesman. What witnesses saw was not smoke from a fire. There was no fire but the rupture threw a lot of gas, soil and water into the air. Evidently, there was a weakness in the pipeline that was not detected by our monitoring system.
Merritt said that the company is now replacing the 400-foot section of the line, will conduct several tests and will not operate the pipeline until the U.S. Department of Transportation gives permission. The program for upgrading the operating pressure includes checking the corrosion protection system, utilizing a smart pig-a device that runs through the pipeline and checks its structural integrity, Merritt said.
The pipeline originates in Kentucky and traverses the area through Monroe County, traveling north through Milford and Westfall, heading toward the Delaware River where it crosses at Mill Rift.
According to its website, Columbia is a subsidiary of NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage Company of West Virginia and is a 47.5 percent partner in the Millennium Pipeline Company. Columbia will be responsible for the operation of the Millennium system when construction is finished.