NTSB discusses Miss. pipeline blast failures

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, October 15, 2009

Better pipeline testing might have prevented a 2007 propane explosion that killed two people in rural Mississippi, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.

The blast destroyed four houses near Carmichael in the central part of the state and caused $3.4 million in property damage. The explosion was caused by a large rupture in an 1,100-mile pipeline that runs from Texas to North Carolina.

Investigators weren’t sure how the break occurred but said current pressure testing isn’t adequate to detect such failures. The NTSB called on federal regulators to study current testing programs and consider strengthening them.

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Investigators found the pipeline’s owner, Houston-based Dixie Pipeline Co., had failed to include area houses in its safety awareness program. They also said the company’s outreach to emergency responders did not include 911 call centers, which they said were not fully prepared to recognize the dangers from the rupture and direct people how to evacuate.

The rupture released about 430,000 gallons of liquid propane, investigators said. Along with destroying four homes, it shattered windows in others and was felt some 30 miles away in Quitman.