City seeks source of blast
City crew was digging into the pavement and ground beneath on Thursday beneath at the corner of Rowland and Mills, a block off of West Canal, trying to find the cause of an explosion in the area.
Residents there say they have smelled something that appeared to have the odor of natural gas after it has had the distinctive scent added.
However, one resident from nearby apartments, Sean Taylor, said he hadn’t reported it and didn’t think anyone else had.
“Actually, after Valspar shutdown, I thought it was something draining from over there,” Taylor said. The paint company had been located nearby.
“I’ve been smelling it for about three months now. It was so strong it takes your breathe away,” he said.
He saw the blast and said it threw the manhole cover “20 feet in the air.”
The explosion occurred on Jan. 1 as Dawson Duplantis, her 5-year-old son, and another child were shooting off fireworks under the supervision of her boyfriend, said Megan McVey.
Dawson “was with my boyfriend popping off fireworks when my boyfriend lit his lighter to light the fireworks.
Then the manhole blew up,” McVey said.
Dawson had abrasions and burns on his face and his hair was burned, including his eyelashes, and he had second and third degree burns on his left ankle, McVey said.
“I had a new baby boy on the 26th (of December) and then we had to go all the way to Jackson with Sean, carrying the baby,” she said, for the burns to be treated.
Public Works Director Eric Morris, who was at the site of the blast with the crew Thursday afternoon, said the city and the Pearl River County Utility Authority are working together to try to determine the cause of the blast reported by the residents.
“So far, it’s a cooperative effort between the utility authority and the city of Picayune,” Morris said.
It could have been caused by methane gas building up in the sewer system or it could have been caused by a natural gas leak, he said. Morris said tests conducted by the utility authority found high levels of methane in nearby manholes leading into the sewer system.
He said the investigation to determine the cause of the blast was just beginning.
The city owns the natural gas distribution system and the utility authority owns the sewage system.