CHARLESTON, W.Va. --A federal safety agency has given the OK to restart the natural gas pipeline that exploded in the Sissonville area Dec. 11, but not before the gas company responds to a list of questions.
C.W. Sigman, Kanawha County's deputy emergency services director, said the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration included a "long list of actions the gas company has to take before they restart" the pipeline.
The list is "going to take a while" for NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission to respond to and Sigman said he isn't sure how long it would take.
"Timing is not the issue. The issue is making sure it's safe," Sigman said. "It already had one rupture and burnt several buildings down. We want to make sure it doesn't happen again so we don't want to be in any hurry."
The pipeline exploded near Columbia Gas Transmission's Lanham Compressor Station at Rocky Fork.
The blast and resulting fires destroyed about five homes and engulfed a large section of Interstate 77. No one was killed but several people were treated for minor injuries.
New federal records contradicted NiSource's earlier statements to local officials that the pipeline dated back to only the 1990s. It was constructed in 1967.
Sigman said since the pipe is so old it has never been "pigged" before.
A pipeline inspection gauge, or "pig," is a maintenance tool that's inserted into a pipeline and travels freely through it, driven by the flow of the product inside the pipeline itself to do a specific task within it, according to the Pigging Products and Services Association's website.
In this instance, pipeline inspection gauges are used to provide information on the condition of the pipeline and the extent and location of any problem, such as corrosion.
The gas company needs to verify records to ensure that there aren't corrosion issues, Sigman said.
"They have never tested the pipe so how do they know it doesn't have thinning issues on other parts of the pipe?" Sigman said. "The valves are so old. I'm sure over the years pipe has been added to it and replaced. It needs to be verified. Digging needs to be done."