On December 11, 2012 the Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline, owned by NiSource, exploded 10 miles north of Charleston, West Virgina. As flames shot into the sky, a portion of Interstate 77 was closed. After a two-year investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) placed fault on pipeline owner NiSource for negligence. Just under 6 years later, tragedy surrounds another pipeline system owned by NiSource.
On Thursday night, one person was killed and dozens were injured after a series of 60 to 80 fires erupted in the neighborhoods of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. Thousands are currently unable to return their homes as crews and investigators begin looking into the area’s gas lines.
The Gas Explosion in 2012
Photographs from the 2012 Interstate 77 explosion show the highway covered by an imposing wall of flames. The heat from the explosion was so intense that it melted guardrails and nearby road signs were stripped of their green enamel. After an hour, the flames were doused by fire crews.
However, the damage had already been done. The fire burned down 4 houses and created a gaping hole where 800 feet of Interstate 77 previously covered. Crews worked through the night to repair the road as those that lost their houses began recovering from the incident. In its final report regarding the incident, the NTSB blamed NiSource for the explosion. The report concluded that the explosion was caused by “external corrosion that could have been discovered by the pipeline operator.”
The report went on to mention that it took over 10 minutes for pipeline controllers to notice alerts for the explosion. To make matters worse, the company only initiated a shutdown after a controller from another company alerted them of the blast. Once efforts to turn off the gas that was feeding the Interstate 77 fire finally began, it took more than an hour to actually do so. The NTSB asserted that the pipeline lacked safety shut off valves that would have made the situation less severe.
When commenting on the incident, NTSB Chairman Deborah Herman said, “Remarkably, no lives were lost in this accident, but the potential for tragedy was clearly there. Inspection and testing improve the chances of locating defects early and reduce the probability of a catastrophic failure which can have devastating results.” Or, in other words, NiSource neglected their infastructure and pure luck prevented the accident from taking lives.
Other Accidents Involving NiSource Gas Lines
In 2015, the company was blamed for a gas leak explosion that damaged dozens of homes in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Then, in 2017, another explosion occurred at a Medina, Ohio apartment complex. A mother and her disabled 18-year-old son were killed. The final cause of this explosion was unable to be determined due to several possible factors that could have caused the incident.
Back in Massachusetts, evacuee Mac Daniel speaks with reporters. As dozens of homes burn and smoke billows over Andover, he asks, “The big question we’re all asking is how did this happen? How can 100 homes suddenly explode?” As the investigation into the tragic incidents Massachusetts continue, our gas explosion lawyers hope that Daniel and the rest of the community have answers soon—those who lost a loved one, lost their home, or suffered injuries deserve answers.