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WSAZ INVESTIGATES: Gas Pipeline Had Safety Violations Before Explosion

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The early warning signs of the massive gas pipeline explosion may have been present four days earlier.

Randy Filkins tells WSAZ.com he and his wife noticed something wasn't right on Friday when they drove along Interstate 77 -- four days before the explosion.

"My wife and I just looked at each other when we noticed a horribly strong gas odor," Filkins said.

He spoke with WSAZ.com's Brooks Jarosz and explained how surprised he was no one reported the odor.

"You would think they would be able to monitor any kind of leak like that," Filkins said.

The major pipeline explosion Tuesday created a massive fireball, leveled five homes and melted Interstate 77. Luckily, no one was killed or hurt.

Since that fire, WSAZ.com has been digging and checked into the safety history of that very pipeline and whether it's properly maintained.

We asked Columbia Gas if there had been reports of leaks at the scene of the blast. Officials told us, however, they did not have that information on hand.

WSAZ.com obtained safety rules and records and found out pipelines like the one that ruptured are supposed to be inspected at least four times a year.

In the inspection report, we found Columbia Gas was cited for three violations related to that pipeline between 2007 and 2010, including a leak in 2009 that was not reported. A cracked valve caused gas to spew several miles from Sissonville and had to be replaced.

Following Tuesday's incident, any pipeline problems raise even more questions.

"If gas is being leaked and not used, that should have sent up a red flag," Filkins said. "The gas is going somewhere."

Kanawha County Metro 911 reports they have taken 11 calls about people smelling natural gas in the Sissonville area this year. In fact, they took one of those calls on the day of the explosion.

911 dispatched a crew to Grapevine Road which is several miles from the explosion site to check it out. The crew didn't find anything.

County leaders say they are now trying to find out if there is any link between these calls and that explosion.

It is required that all pipelines get checked for leaks at least once a year.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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