On Monday morning, a gas pipeline in Brooke County, West Virginia exploded into a ball of flame.
Eyewitnesses said the flames rose hundreds of feet in the air. The explosion caused no casualties, though it did melt the siding of a nearby home and downed a power line.
The ruptured transmission line is part of the Appalachia-to-Texas Express ethane pipeline operated by Enterprise Products Partners L.P., which brings ethane from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania to a storage site in Mont Velvieu, Texas. Local media reports that the line ruptured and caught fire at 10:39 AM in a rural area near Archer Hill Road. The fire burned until emergency responders were able to put it out around 3:20 PM.
Compared to deadlier and more destructive incidents, the Brooke County fireball is a minor incident. However, Think Progress points out that this relatively minor incident is the fourth pipeline disaster this month. This is true, though January has actually seen five fossil fuel-related disasters overall.
On January 14, a natural gas pipeline in Mississippi exploded on Three Prong Road. The explosion was massive enough to rattle the windows of houses and the smoke plume produced by the ensuing fire was so big it appeared on the National Weather Service’s radar. No injuries were reported, but gas service was eliminated in about 25 homes.
Three days later, on January 17, a pipeline in Montana ruptured and spilled 50,400 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. A few days later, benzene, a chemical found in oil and a known carcinogen, was detected in nearby tap water. Despite an official pronouncement that contamination of the water supply was unlikely, tests discovered elevated concentrations of benzene in the Glendive water treatment plant.
On January 22 the media was alerted to a spill in Williams County, North Dakota that actually began on January 6. A pipeline was breached and spilled some three million gallons of brine – the super-salty wastewater byproduct of hydraulic fracking – into two creeks outside Williston. Brine can be five to eight times saltier than the ocean and contain toxic levels of ammonium, chloride, heavy metals and radioactive material. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the brine had contaminated the Missouri River.
On January 23, a tanker truck overturned on West Virginia’s Route 92 and spilled 3,975 gallons of diesel into Anthony Creek, a tributary of the Greenbrier river. By the time officials had closed the intakes of the Lewisburg Water Treatment Plant, the city of Lewisburg was left with only enough water to last into Sunday afternoon. Currently, Lewisburg’s population of 12,000 is receiving bottled water from emergency services. The cities of Ronceverte, Frankford and Renick have also been affected, and Lewisburg officials say that water services will not return until Wednesday at the earliest.