NTSB: Corrosion and Lack of Inspections Cause of Pipeline Explosion

By: Jeremy Edwards Email
By: Jeremy Edwards Email
The gas line rupture caught fire and destroyed three homes and melted a portion of Interstate 77.

(Courtesy Photo / NTSB)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Corrosion and lack of inspections were the cause of a massive gas line explosion in Sissonville.

The National Transportation Safety Board released the cause Monday of the blast in December 2012. Neighbor Roger McCallister will remember that day for the rest of his life.

"I began to feel my home shaking and hearing just a real loud roar," McCallister said.

The gas line rupture caught fire and destroyed three homes and melted a portion of Interstate 77. At least three neighbors have moved since, many out of the area and state.

According to a news release, investigators say the gas line ruptured because of corrosion and lack of recent inspections.

Investigators say the ruptured line was found to have suffered from severe corrosion that reduced the thickness of the pipeline wall to just 30 percent of what it was when it was installed.

The pipeline had not been tested or inspected since 1988, according to the release. The rupture could have also been prevented. The NTSB says it took the pipeline operator more than 10 minutes to even realize what was happening.

"An hour and a half before the people got there to turn the valve off and the flame went down," McCallister said.

“Remarkably, no lives were lost in this accident but the potential for tragedy was clearly there,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “Inspection and testing improve the chances of locating defects early, and reduce the probability of a catastrophic failure which can have devastating results.”

McCallister agrees. He knows it could have been even more devastating.

"The odds of any of my neighbors being home survived through that (is) still a question to be thought on," he said.

The NTSB says they have issued three safety recommendations to Columbia Gas Transmission and one to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Statement from Shawn L. Patterson, President, Operations and Project Delivery
We thank Chairman Hersman and the members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and their staff for conducting a thorough investigation into the incident that took place on our system on December 11, 2012 in Sissonville, West Virginia.

The report issued today confirms that the comprehensive response program Columbia has already initiated is on the right track, and will improve safety practices not only at our company, but across the pipeline industry.

While Columbia was in full compliance with all Federal and State pipeline safety regulatory requirements for the pipeline, the report identifies areas for continuous improvements opportunities, many of which are already underway.

We take a proactive approach to safety and we look to apply lessons learned from incidents like this. We also look to better obtain, interpret and apply information on our systems to ensure safe and reliable operation.

Throughout this investigation, we have worked closely with the NTSB, as well as other federal, state, and local agencies to advance our common goal of protecting the public and taking the steps needed to prevent an incident like this one from happening again.

All parties involved, including first responders and Columbia’s West Virginia based workforce, have demonstrated an extraordinary amount of dedication and professionalism. We are extremely thankful for their efforts.

This was a difficult situation for all of us, 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.

We remain steadfastly committed to operating safely.

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