This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions – March 18, 2013Mar 18th, 2013 | By fjgallagher | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Explosions
It’s been a while since the last edition of This Week in Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions, to be sure, but not for lack of content – quite the opposite, actually.
The fact is, there have been so many major natural gas disasters, often with tragic consequences, that have demanded in-depth coverage and closer scrutiny that the feature had taken a back seat for a while.
But no longer.
So let’s get right to it, beginning with the observation of a tragic natural gas anniversary of historic magnitude: it was on this day, March 18, in 1937 that a natural gas explosion killed nearly 300 people in New London, Texas, most of them kids.
The building exploded when a teacher turned on a sanding machine, touching off the ignition of the methane-soaked air in a crawlspace beneath the school. Turns out, natural gas had been leaking there for quite some time.
The effect was immediate, enormous and deadly.
According to witness accounts, a significant part of the building “disintegrated” in an explosion that was heard for miles around.
There were 540 people in the building; 293 of them died.
Shortly thereafter, the Texas Legislature enacted laws as a result of the natural gas explosion. They set standards on how gas lines should be connected and they required the industry to add an odorant so people could smell gas leaks when they occurred.
And to a certain extent, these reforms, which were enacted by states across the country, have worked — there have been far fewer natural gas explosions of the magnitude that destroyed a school and took so many lives that day in New London, Texas, 76 years ago now.
But the fact is, natural gas explosions continue to occur with astonishing regularity throughout this country, often with tragic consequences — some that can be quantified in dollars and cents and others that can be measured only by the sting of loss, and the ache in your soul where a friend or family member used to be.
A case in point: by now even casual readers of this site know about the natural gas explosion that leveled a restaurent in Kansas City, Missouri, on Feb. 19. Authorities investigating that blast, which injured 15 people and killed one, have just released their report on the incident. You can read that report in its entirety here: KCFD Report on Natural Gas Explosion Feb19 2012 JJs.
The Kansas City explosion, according to the report, was triggered b y natural gas leaking into the restaurant from an outside line that had been compromised somehow. The gas built up until it eventually a pilot light in either the stove or a hot water heater touched off the blast.
Also out of Kansas City, Kansas City Star reporter Steve Everly filed a report noting that state regulators in Kansas are close to settling with the Kansas Gas Service in connection with a natural gas leak in Topeka, Kansas, last year.
From the KC Star story:
The leak, which occurred last year in Topeka, had already caused an explosion in a house that fatally injured Lucinia Tolliver, who was 81. But the utility spent the next 41/2 hours after the blast digging holes and plugging a pipeline to stop the flow of gas.
According to a report by the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission, during that time the gas could have migrated to other homes and caused more explosions. Rather than use emergency shutoff valves that would have affected 419 customers on a cold day, the report said, the utility instead chose a course that stopped the flow of natural gas to just 77 customers.
On Friday, March 15, Consumers Energy fired an undisclosed number of employees in connection with a natural gas explosion in Detroit, Michigan, that killed a man on Feb. 27 for “failure to follow established procedures and policies.”
From a March 15 Consumers Energy press release:
“Following the tragic explosion in Royal Oak on Feb. 27, we have been conducting a thorough investigation, including employee interviews, system inspection and policy review. Based on our findings to date, we have taken appropriate disciplinary action, including terminations for failure to follow established policies and procedures.”
Investigators in Phoenix, Arizona, believe natural gas factored into an explosion there that destroyed a house on Saturday, March 16.
Dozens of homes in Clinton, Arkansas, were evacuated on Monday, March 4, after an explosion and a fire at a natural gas compressor station in Van Buren County, according to recent media reports. No one was injured. The compressor station is owned by BHPBilliton.
And remember, as always, this report is by no means comprehensive. It’s merely a snapshot of the destruction that routinely occurs in various towns and cities around America because natural gas has a tendency to explode, particularly when its mishandled.
Ed. Note – if you enjoy the content you get here at NaturalGasWatch.org, please take a moment to click on one of the advertisements you’ll find on the right-hand side of the page. Your support will help us keep this site up and running. Thanks, Fj.