Washington County, PA – Columbia Gas apologized Thursday for an explosion in Washington County that obliterated a house, damaged homes nearby and left at least four people injured.
In a prepared statement, the president of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania and Maryland, Mike Huwar, said the explosion happened because the company failed to identify a house on Park Lane in North Franklin would be affected by nearby maintenance.
For these projects, it is important to identify the customers connected to the gas main being replaced, and complete the work to install a regulator at each home, before the new system is activated, Mr. Huwar said. However, the home on Park Lane was located at an unusual distance from the gas main that was surveyed, and fell out of the geographic area that was reviewed ahead of the project. That meant the house never received the necessary pressure regulator.
Therefore, when the new system was energized and because the pressure regulator was not added, the elevated pressure led to the leak, which led to the explosion, Mr. Huwar explained.
As a result of the explosion, Mr. Huwar said, Columbia Gas will now suspend all non-emergency work in the Township, and it will expand the geographic areas that are reviewed in detail before such a project is conducted.
“Our customers deserve safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to their homes,” Mr. Huwar said. “We failed to deliver on our mission in this instance, and we are deeply sorry.
The home on Park Lane exploded just before 4 p.m. on Wednesday, just as volunteer firefighters arrived to check reports of a gas smell in the area. All that remains of the home is debris, some of which hangs in the trees above the site.
At least four people were injured, including three firefighters. No one was killed.
For neighbors like Tabatha Hurst, 39, there was relief that the cause of the disaster was identified quickly.
It’s good. At least they stepped up in a quick amount of time, Ms. Hurst said.
Ms. Hurst lives just up the street from where the home exploded. The blast knocked her back door off its hinges, caused shelves to topple over and broke many of her windows.
Her husband, Juddy, said they were still in shock. He said the blast made him worry about future incidents.
There’s a worry that it [will] happen, Mr. Hurst, 36, said. But I think they’ll be more cautious.
At Cindy Iams’ house, the blast left cracks in her home’s ceiling, caused the windows to shatter and separated the kitchen sink from the wall. One of her family’s three cats is still scared to come out of its hiding place.
But Ms. Iams, 48, was also satisfied to see Columbia Gas come forward.
They realized they didn’t put a valve on there, she said. They knew what they did.
Ms. Hurst said the blast came just one week before her family is set to leave for vacation.
You know those times where you feel like you earned a vacation? she said. Yeah, I feel like I earned this one.