The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Fatal Natural Gas Explosion Rocks Durham, NC
One person was killed and 17 were injured after a natural gas explosion in Durham, North Carolina Wednesday morning.
The explosion occurred at 10:07 a.m., about 30 minutes after firefighters responded to a 911 call reporting the smell of gas in the 100 block of North Duke Street, Fire Chief Robert J. Zoldos II told The Durham Herald-Sun. The firefighters had begun evacuating nearby buildings when the blast destroyed one building and damaged four others, sending up a plume of dark smoke.
"It looks like the front of the Pentagon on 9/11 — but on a very, very small scale," Zoldos, who was a first responder during the attacks, told CBS.
Witness Jim Rogalski, who was working in a nearby office, described the scene to CNN in a text message.
"Half the block is destroyed," Rogalski wrote. "Lots of injuries. Our office across the street was blown out. It was terrifying. Glass and debris everywhere. No one killed in our office but several injuries — deep cuts, head lacerations."
Zoldos told the Durham Herald-Sun that he contacted Dominion Energy, the company that supplies gas to Durham, after receiving the 911 call. Dominion tweeted that its subsidiary PSNC Energy "responded to a call about third-party damage to a natural gas line and the explosion occurred shortly thereafter." Additional PSNC crews shut off gas to the area following the blast.
"Our thoughts & prayers are with those impacted by this tragic event as well as their families," Dominion said.
Dominion has been the driving force behind the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would bring fracked natural gas through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Dominion has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court after an appeals court tossed key permits for the project over environmental concerns.
For anti-pipeline group No ACP!, the explosion underscored the dangers of using gas as an energy source.
"They tell us gas is safe but it's clearly not," the group tweeted.
The cause of Wednesday's explosion is currently under investigation, the Durham Herald-Sun reported. Officials initially said it was caused when a contractor hit a two-inch pipe beneath the sidewalk, but later said they were still working to discover the cause.
"Until the investigation is complete, we don't know that's the source of the gas leak," Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson told the Durham Herald-Sun.
The building most damaged by the explosion was a former Studebaker dealership now home to several businesses including Kaffeinate coffee shop. It was the owner of that shop, 61-year-old Kong Lee, who perished in the blast, CNN reported.
Of those injured, one was a firefighter, one was an employee of Dominion who had responded to the initial leak report and eight were employees of Duke University, CNN reported. The firefighter was seriously hurt, but their life was not in danger, Zoldos said. Six of those injured were critically wounded.
The blast came as the city of Durham celebrated its 150th birthday.
"It's an irony, I know," Mayor Steve Schewel said as he praised emergency crews for their response, as CBS reported. "But what I will say about that is that what we hoped would be a very happy day it's not a happy day, but, again, it's a day when I am so proud of how our local government functions."
- Massachusetts Gas Explosions Draw Scrutiny of Natural Gas Safety ... ›
- Board Meeting: Silver Spring, Maryland, Natural Gas Explosion ›
- Gas line explosion in SF sends people running for lives ... ›
- Los Angeles gas explosion sends clouds of smoke over the skyline ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Low-Fat Diets Rich in Fruits and Veggies May Reduce Women’s Risk of Breast Cancer Death, Study Finds
Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.
When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.
Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.