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Posted: 06/25/14

Gas explosion concerns Ray Township residents

by STACY SOBOTKA
Observer Special Writer
      Residents who live along 29 Mile Road wanted answers from the Ray Township Board of Trustees at its meeting June 17 regarding a gas explosion.
       On June 7, around 6:30 p.m., an unplanned release of natural gas occurred at the Bluewater Gas Storage booster station on 29 Mile Road, 15 miles west of their storage facility in Columbus. The pressurized release resulted in an explosion.
       The explosion caused damage to the piping and the compressor station. There were no injuries, but there was damage to three neighboring properties and a vacant lot caused by debris and shrapnel. The damaged part of the pipeline has been isolated to prevent further release of gas.
       The facility is owned by PAA Natural Gas Storage of Houston, Texas. A statement from the company said there is no current risk to area residents and the cause of the incident is currently under investigation.
       Supervisor Charlie Bohm said the township had no jurisdiction over the facility since it is interstate commerce and heavily regulated.
       "The fire chief and I are satisfied with the explanation that they gave us as the probable cause," he said. "I understand there's still some more investigation to be done as far as the integrity of the pipe and some other things that they will keep us informed on."
       Mark Phillips Sr., who lives near the facility, was not present at the time of the explosion but expressed concern over what could have happened.
       "Shrapnel was thrown all around the property," Phillips said. "There are 600- to 700-pound pieces of quarter-inch plate steel that used to be pipe. They're laying all over the property. This could have killed people. This company hasn't come to us."
       Another resident, Edward Kerr II, lives next door to the facility, saying that three of his horses were hurt by the explosion.
       "Almost daily, gas is expelled from that plant," he said. "It can drift anywhere it wants in Ray Township depending on which the way the wind is blowing. I'm surprised it hasn't blown up before. It is a matter of Ray Township's responsibility."
       Bohm said the Ray Township Fire Department could go out and inspect the facility.
       "Our fire department is interested in public safety of everybody in Ray Township and we have (them) go to all of our facilities and test as to whether or not that is gas that is being emitted out there," he said.
       Phillips suggested an ordinance prohibiting gas release to the board. Bohm said if the township can determine if it is actual gas being released, then it does have jurisdiction.
       "We'll be happy to send our fire guys over there and have them test that," said Bohm.
       State Rep. Ken Goike was in attendance that evening and said he would contact the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).
       "That's probably the right avenue for us to take," he said. "Everything is supposed to be done electronically. Just one little burp and they're supposed to electronically shut the valves down. Obviously, there's been a fault. If that ran for 20 minutes before a phone call got down to Texas and finally shut it off, something's not right."
       Since the meeting, Goike said an investigation is being conducted by the MPSC. He said once they conclude their investigation, they will turn their findings over to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), who has the jurisdiction over the nation's pipelines.
       "PHMSA will then determine the proper enforcement required following the explosion," he said.
       In other business, the Board of Trustees:
       - Approved an authorization to enter into a contract with Verizon for a land lease agreement to construct a cell tower on township property located on 29 Mile Road between Kunstman Road and Romeo Plank Road.
       - Approved a letter to the Macomb County Public Works Commissioner to initiate the Garfield Interceptor Extension (sewer extension) Phases One and Two.
       - Accepted petitions for a Special Assessment District for Apple Lane.
       - Established a Special Assessment District for Apple Lane.
       - Adopted a resolution instructing the Macomb County Road Commission to prepare plans, specifications and estimates for the Apple Lane paving Special Assessment District.
       - Set the public hearing date for the Apple Lane Special Assessment District for July 15.


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Retrieved 12/22/2014 at 2:28:43 PM.
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