At approximately 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon Columbia Gas received reports of a gas odor and explosion at 100 Park Lane in Washington, Pa. We responded immediately to the reports and began working with emergency responders and site investigators. While there was no indication that other customers in the area were in danger, out of an abundance of caution we quickly interrupted service to approximately 60 customers in the immediate vicinity. Our crews then surveyed our gas lines and surrounding areas to ensure customer safety and we are now restoring service to those affected customers. As of this afternoon, we have restored gas service to approximately two-thirds of those customers.
First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals who were injured and impacted by the event, especially the family that lost its home.
UPDATE ON OUR REVIEW
While our comprehensive review of the incident is still ongoing, we wanted to share with you our current understanding of what caused the explosion. At the time of the event we were performing routine work to replace older infrastructure and modernize our gas system. To understand what happened, it is helpful to describe the type of work that was being performed.
As part of our modernization work, this project was replacing our gas mains and services, which includes installing a gas regulator at each customer home connected to the gas main. This device regulates the pressure level of gas entering the home. It’s important to note: This work is a routine part of our modernization effort and is executed successfully for thousands of customers each year. The work of installing gas regulators is required as part of the modernization project. 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.
The home at which the explosion occurred was located on a different street than all the other homes associated with the project. This was an unusual configuration of the system — having a home connected at such a distance to a gas main on a different street.
While our review processes are designed to catch such anomalies, unfortunately, the combination of our review processes — including our initial project design process and our additional secondary field survey — did not identify the fact that this home was connected to the section of the gas main being upgraded. We evaluate a large geographic area when conducting this type of work — however, the location of this home fell outside the geographic area we reviewed. As a result, the necessary upgrade of adding a pressure regulator at the house was not done. 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.
As a result of this incident, we will be suspending all non-emergency work in North Franklin Township and consulting closely with local officials.
In addition, we will be enhancing our project design procedures and survey processes for this type of work. For example, we are changing the process to 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. We failed to deliver on our mission in this instance, and we are deeply sorry.
As we have said: Columbia Gas has restored natural gas service to approximately two-thirds of the 60 affected customers in the Washington County community, and service technicians are continuing to reach out to the remaining customers to restore service.
For those not at home, a door hanger will be left at your home requesting you call Columbia Gas at 1-888-460-4332 for a service technician to be dispatched to restore service. As always, if you smell gas please get to a safe place and call 911 and Columbia Gas at 1-888-460-4332.
To help us quickly and safely complete restoration, we will need to enter every affected home or business, so an adult (18 or older) must be present to allow our employees to restore service. To learn more about the relight process, please visit ColumbiaGasPA.com/relight. As a reminder, all Columbia Gas employees and contractors wear a company-issued ID badge with their photo on it.
Columbia Gas thanks the local emergency management officials for their ongoing work and support during this incident, and we thank the residents of this community for their patience and understanding as our service technicians work to restore service.
Lastly, we have established a claims hotline for affected customers. If you are an affected customer who needs claims assistance, please call 1-800-445-5846.