Pennsylvania Natural Gas Explosion Kills 5February 11, 2011
On Wednesday, an 83-year old cast-iron gas main may have been the cause of a large explosion which destroyed a row-house neighborhood and killed 5 people in Allen Town, Pennsylvania. The blast was the latest in a string of national gas explosions and has led many to question the safety of the country's 2.5 million mile network of natural gas and liquid pipelines which are reaching nearly 100 years old in some cases.
The explosion occurred in a neighborhood where the gas main lacked shut-off valves and rescue teams worked for 5-hours in freezing temperatures to punch through ice, asphalt, and concrete, in order to seal the gas main and stop the fire.
Witnesses say there was no odor previous to the blast and they were completely taken by surprise. A spokesman for UGI Utilities Inc. said that a routine leak-detection test in that area had come up clean on Tuesday. He further stated that there had been no calls about gas odors before the disaster. Investigators plan to focus their investigation on the area the accident occurred and do not believe it is necessary to look for leaks elsewhere along the pipeline at the moment. Officials for the owners and operators of the pipeline reported that they have no plans to replace the pipelines, citing they have been deemed safe and reliable.
Victims include: a 4 month-old boy, a 16 year-old girl, a 69 year-old woman, a 79 year-old man, and a 74 year-old woman. Officials say 47 homes were also damages in the incident.
Authorities say that shut-off valves were not feasible for the gas main which was constructed in 1928, but this fact (if true) does mean that it is not feasible to upgrade the outdated pipelines to prevent this gas explosion.