Pressure inside Mass. pipes was 12 times too high during explosions

The pressure in gas pipes that were responsible for a leak that caused dozens of fires and explosions in Massachusetts was 12 times higher than normal, U.S. senators said. Photo by C.J. Gunther/EPA-

Sept. 18 (UPI) — The pressure inside pipes blamed for a series of fires and explosions in Massachusetts last week was at least 12 times higher than it should have been, U.S. senators said Monday.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, both Democrats from Massachusetts, noted the pressure in the Columbia Gas system “should have been around 0.5 pounds per square inch, but readings in the area reached at least 6 PSI,” in a letter to the gas company, its parent company NiSource and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, The Boston Globe reported.

“We write to request that you provide us with information in order to help the American people understand why this terrible disaster occurred, whether the company was sufficiently prepared to respond to an incident of this magnitude, and how we can prevent any similar tragedy in the future,” the letter stated.

One person died, at least 25 people were injured and 80 structures were destroyed as dozens of fires burned in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover on Thursday.

On Sunday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the agency “can confirm at this time that this was indeed an overpressure situation.”

The NTSB is conducting an investigation into what caused the pressure buildup, which could take 12 to 24 months.

“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,” he said.

Warren and Markey asked about a dozen question in the letters, seeking to determine what actions the company took at the time of the pressure buildup and subsequent explosions and how it responded.

The senators also called for a congressional hearing on the incident.


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