Deadly Gas Explosions Caused by Pressure in Pipes

A series of gas explosions in several towns north of Boston recently caused more than 60 fires and explosions, killing one man and injuring multiple others (Gas Explosions Traced to Too Much Pressure in Pipes). The explosions were caused by an excess of natural gas pumped into pipes owned by Columbia Gas, creating more pressure than the pipes could bear.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates significant accidents in railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline transportation, made the determination. The NTSB “can confirm at this time that this was indeed an overpressure situation,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

According to the NTSB, the flow of gas into homes was “significantly greater” than designed. “The real question for this investigation is to answer why this occurred,” Sumwalt said.

Columbia Gas was working in the area to remove old cast-iron pipes and replace them with new plastic pipes. Sumwalt said the NTSB will attempt to determine “what effect, if any, did this have on the overpressure situation.”

Columbia Gas intends to fully cooperate with the NTSB’s investigation, according to Joe Hamrock, president and chief executive officer of its parent company, NiSource Inc. Hamrock said the company is “committed to full transparency and collaboration to get to all of the underlying causes.”

Residents of the communities were evacuated but allowed to return to their homes after they were found to be safe for habitation. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, however, continued to recommend that all residents remain vigilant for any indications of smoke or gas.

The NTSB expects its investigation to take 12 to 24 months, but it could announce immediate safety recommendations in response to any problems it encounters during that time. “We want to find out what happened so that other communities don’t have to go through the devastation that has occurred right here in this area,” Sumwalt said.

Natural gas is used to heat more than half the homes in the United States. The gas companies must be required to take every safety precaution possible to prevent these kinds of tragedies. If you have been injured in a natural gas explosion, it is essential that you hire an experienced attorney to protect your rights. Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

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