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Williams Compressor Station Explosion in New Jersey Injures Two Workers

May 31, 2013

Two injured in explosion at Williams gas pipeline facility in Branchburg

Two workers were injured, and others declined medical treatment, after yet another Williams compressor station explosion, this one in Branchburg, New Jersey. The incident occurred last night at about 7 pm — Thursday night, May 30th, 2013, just over 24 hours ago. Sergio Bichau reports:

BRANCHBURG — Two construction workers were injured Thursday evening when a fire erupted at a natural gas facility in the Neshanic Station section of the township.

The workers were welding a portion of a nonactive pipe at the compressor station at the time of the explosion, about 7 p.m. Emergency responders, including firefighters and ambulances, rushed to the scene.

The cause of fire remains under investigation, according to Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the Williams Co., which operates the facility.

The welders suffered non life-threatening injuries and were taken to a local hospital, Stockton said. Several other workers declined medical treatment.

The facility is located on a service road leading from the residential Case Boulevard, more than a mile east of Route 202.

Natural gas service was not disrupted, Stockton said.

Mayor Jim Leonard said he will ask the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which regulates pipeline saifety, to investigate.

Williams, which owns the Transco national gas pipeline, is building a controversial 6.6-mile pipeline extension in the Hunterdon County municipalities of Franklin, Clinton and Union. The company received federal regulatory approval in November.

The injured workers are employed by Pennsylvania-based pipeline contractor Henkels & McCoy, whose safety motto is “Nobody Gets Hurt!”

Read the full story here at mycentralnewjersey.

From Frank Finan's 32 photos of Lathrop compressor station fire https://picasaweb.google.com/103738466922437530110/LathropCompressorExplosionEnoughIsEnough?authkey=Gv1sRgCKb45YGhq630Ow

Lathrop compressor station still smoking. Photo by Frank Finan. Story at protectingourwaters.com from March 30th, 2012

The Pennsylvania DEP declined last month to impose any fines on Williams, despite Williams’ having caused an explosion and fire at their Lathrop Compressor Station in Springvale Township, Susquehanna County, PA last March. Natural Gas Watch reports that Williams got off scot-free even though they re-started operations immediately after the dangerous fire without authorization from PA DEP.

In the same April 8th weekly Natural Gas Watch report, Williams is also implicated in benzene plumes thousands of times the “safe” limit for benzene, in Parachute, Colorado:

A leak…continues to contaminate the Parachute Creek, near Parachute, Colorado. The Parachute Creek flows into the Colorado River, which is the major source of water for American in the southwestern United States.

“>The Williams Company – there’s that name again – owns and operates a hydrocarbon processing plant in the area and investigation has focused on two pipelines: a 30-inch line that carries raw natural gas into the plant and a four-inch line that carries natural gas liquids, such as benzene, to another part of the plant for storage.

From a recent story in the Denver Post:

The leak has created a plume of toxic compounds that initially was thought to measure 200 feet by 70 feet by 14 feet deep. It was discovered about 30 feet from Parachute Creek by workers excavating in the area. Testing of the groundwater between the plume and the creek has revealed extremely high levels of benzene, one of several compounds typically found in subterranean natural-gas and oil deposits. The groundwater tests have revealed concentrations thousands of times greater than state and national safety standards for human exposure.

Brooklyn residents throw up their hands in disgust at Williams for its Transco Pipeline which, they say, shouldn’t be built at all. Photo by Steve Solomonson in the Brooklyn Daily.

Residents of Brooklyn, NY have also fought hard against Williams Transco for its pipeline, which includes a metering station which would belch foul gasses just 100 yards from a community garden. Williams refused to put in pollution reduction measures. That story is here at the Brooklyn Daily.

The day before the Williams compressor station incident, a massive methane leak hissed madly elsewhere in New Jersey:

Natural Gas leak in Manville, New Jersey turns town into “ghost town in the middle of the day”

This extremely short video shows emergency crews attempting to find the shutoff to stop a loud natural gas leak in Manville, New Jersey on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013.  It took them hours.

You can hear the hissing — that loud noise is methane bursting straight up into our atmosphere “from a ruptured main,” according to reporter Mark Spivey. Over a dozen businesses were evacuated, turning the town into a “ghost town in the middle of the day,” comments Spivey.

The news video from “mycentralnewjersey.com” explains,

Downtown Manville evacuated over loud gas leak

A natural gas leak in downtown Manville forced evacuations of businesses, closures of major thoroughfares and created general confusion Wednesday.

Downwind Impacts of Gas Leaks

For the scientifically minded, here is one of the hottest-off-the-press powerpoints, downloaded today: “Air Impacts of Gas Shale Extraction and Distribution” by Gabrielle Petron, from University of Colorado at Boulder and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Gabrielle brought some fresh air to today’s discussion of shale gas impacts on air and climate, sponsored by the Board on Environmental Change and Society, at nationalacademies.org.  In case you missed the news, one of Gabrielle’s slides shows that methane emissions from oil and gas extraction and processing became the single biggest source of human-caused methane emissions in the U.S. by 2011, surpassing enteric (cow) fermentation for the first time. Of special interest: another of her slides shows how an entire neighborhood is covered by gas one mile downwind of leaking natural gas facilities in Dish, Texas.

Both of the New Jersey incidents above add to what we refer to collectively as “cumulative impacts” from the shale gas industry, yet neither of them are likely to be represented in any way in the scientific literature. Thanks to scientists like Gabrielle Petron, and reporters who go the extra mile to get some truth out there, we have a fraction of a clue about some of the impacts, a hint of a sliver of the story, some of the time.

2 Comments
  1. Vera Scroggins permalink
    May 31, 2013 9:00 pm

    guess we’ll have more “ghost towns” in all these industrialized areas — and maybe, permanent “ghost towns” !

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