One person is dead and 17 have been hospitalized after an explosion stemming from a Dominion Energy subsidiary's natural gas line in downtown Durham, North Carolina, late Wednesday morning.
At approximately 10:26 a.m., a gas leak was reported after a contractor drilled under the sidewalk, rupturing a two-inch gas line. The following explosion destroyed one building and damaged several others, according to local police.
Firefighters had contained the fire as of around 2:30 p.m. and buildings near the explosion had been evacuated. Downtown Durham customers noted muddied water following the explosions, attributed to demand on the water utility's system as firefighters responded to the blaze.
Gas pipeline infrastructure has been under increased scrutiny since a series of deadly explosions in Massachusetts last September, and Wednesday's explosion further highlights the risks of such transmission.
A representative for PSNC Energy, the owner of the line and a Dominion subsidiary, arrived on the scene after additional resources were requested. PSNC stopped the flow of gas at appoximately 11:10 a.m., according to a statement from Dominion. The utility said it is continuing to work with first responders and city officials on scene, in a statement sent to Utility Dive after the explosion.
#UPDATE DEADLY EXPLOSION: Tragic news out of Durham, North Carolina. At least one person was killed and several others injured in an explosion that caused a partial building collapse, officials said. https://t.co/ZzX9XZ9A3H pic.twitter.com/Re8E8iS3kK— FOX 46 Charlotte (@FOX46News) April 10, 2019
Two natural gas pipeline explosions in recent years have led to calls for tighter regulations on the industry, particularly when it comes to aging infrastructure. It is unknown whether aging infrastructure played a role in Wednesday's explosion.
After it was revealed the Massachusetts explosions were caused by line overpressurization, a report by the Boston Herald found that the state's natural gas distribution system had more than 34,000 leaks reported in 2017, including 7,500 marked for immediate repair.
Columbia Gas' parent company, NiSource, said the utility has since replaced 44 miles of pipeline along the impacted region.
In Texas, a 2018 explosion caused by a gas pipeline leak killed a 12-year old girl, causing a state lawmaker to introduce a package of bills aiming to boost transparency and oversight.