EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSSISSONVILLE PIPELINE INVESTIGATION
from Eyewitness News Online
NTSB Safety Official Says Ruptured Pipeline Consistent With External Corrosion
Reported by: Jeff Morris
Videographer: John Tincher
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Dec. 14, 2012 6:32 PM EST
Updated: Dec. 18, 2012 9:07 AM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
A field investigation found areas of a ruptured pipeline in Sissonville that were consistent with external corrosion, a National Transportation Safety Board official said.
During a news conference in South Charleston Friday, the NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt said the ruptured pipe will be crated up Saturday and sent off for further testing.
In other news developments about Tuesday’s dramatic explosion, Sumwalt said investigators have interviewed Columbia Gas Transmission officials and first responders. He also said they have talked to the Columbia Gas controller who said he became first aware of a problem with the pipeline at 12:50 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a call from someone at Cabot Oil & Gas. Sumwalt said the Cabot official received a call about an explosion from an outside caller.
Investigators plan to interview the Cabot official and the outside caller to see if they can learn additional information. “At this point, we need to know what time that call to Cabot came in,” he said.
Sumwalt said the east side of the ruptured pipe, on the side closest to Interstate 77, will be excavated, and they also will evaluate at a laboratory sections of the pipe that did not rupture. He said he hopes the removal of those sections of pipe can be completed Saturday. In addition, the NTSB plans to cut out a 10-foot section of the pipe on the west side, so it can be sent off for testing. That work should take a couple more days.
The NTSB official stressed that this is just the beginning of the investigation. Sumwalt said the agency’s reports generally take about a year to complete. He said, however, that at any point, the NTSB could issue recommendations if it believes they are necessary. Investigators will remain in the Sissonville area through mid-next week, but much further testing and analysis will be done.
Sumwalt said this will be the last local news briefing about the investigation, but the agency will do a thorough probe. “The NTSB is dedicated to finding out what happened, so we can keep it from happening here,” he said.
Pipeline safety is on the agency’s “most wanted list,” Sumwalt said, and the NTSB has issued previous recommendations. He said those recommendations include requiring operators of natural gas pipelines to provide specific information to first responders such as the location of pipelines and the type of products running through those lines; providing better tools to control center operators; and having automatic shutoff and remote control valves in certain areas.
Whatever the agency finds, there is no doubt that what happened in Sissonville will be something that area residents will not soon forget. Tuesday’s explosion resulted in a mass response from first responders. Four homes were destroyed, several were damaged and a section of Interstate 77 received significant damage. Traffic backed up for miles on the interstate. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured or killed in the incident.
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