A Mountaineer Gas pipeline in Martinsburg, West Virginia exploded this afternoon at about 3:15 p.m. on the Sentz family property on Salvation Road.
Anne and Benjamin Sentz were working from home and watching workers dig a trench for a new pipeline that was running by an old pipeline that had gas in it.
“My husband and I were working from home today,” Anne Sentz told Morgan County USA. “We were standing in our kitchen looking out our window watching them dig. We kept an eye on the people doing the work ever since they started. We happened to be watching them dig. They were digging really deep. We heard a bang like they hit metal. All of a sudden there was a loud explosion. Pressurized gas shot up 80 to 100 feet into the air. Six or seven workers just scattered.”
“My husband grabbed me and said – we need to get out of here. I grabbed one dog and he grabbed the other. We just ran to our car. While we were on our way to our car, a worker came to the front of our house and said we needed to go. We just left. I left the door open. We were out of there in 30 seconds. We just drove away. We didn’t know if our house was going to explode or what. We kept on driving. I drove all the way to Shepherdstown.”
“I called 911. They had already received a call about the incident. They put me through to the fire department. I talked to someone from the fire department. They told me they would give me a call when it was safe to come back to the house. It’s 5:30 and we are still not back. We haven’t received the call yet that it is all clear.”
“They had to evacuate in a 330 foot radius we were told. Our neighbors to the right of us were evacuated. Maybe the person across the road was evacuated. I’m not exactly sure how many people were evacuated. Maybe three homes.”
Anne Sentz said that Mountaineer Gas has an easement through their property that is decades old.
“It predates our ownership of the property. It predates the house being built. We didn’t grant them the easement.”
“There had been an old pipeline that runs through our yard. We are not even a natural gas customer. It just happens to run through our property. It was being used by Mountaineer Gas to deliver gas to other customers.”
“We were told by Mountaineer Gas months ago that they were upgrading this old line for safety reasons to put in this larger pipeline. They have been digging all day. It’s my understanding that they are not removing the old pipeline while they are putting the new one in.
“Then you have two pipelines running side by side – an old and a new one. And when they were digging the trench to put the new pipeline in, they hit the old pipeline and that appeared to cause the explosion.”
“I do not believe anyone was hurt. But we left within 30 seconds of it happening. I don’t know. It seems to me from my observation that everyone standing around the site got up and ran away. There was no fire. We haven’t been allowed back onto our property to see if there was property damage. I just don’t know.”
“I’ve been watching this operation for a while,” Sentz said. “I am trying to figure out what is going on. The gas company hasn’t been as transparent as they should be to the property owners and neighbors and people affected by this.”
“I was just at the site at 5 p.m. and could still smell the gas,” said Tracy Cannon. “I’ve been watching the pipeline construction in the Eastern Panhandle closely for two years now. I’ve often been concerned about what I saw. Mountaineer Gas Company has been installing new pipeline on Salvation Road without removing the old pipeline first. I was worried that something could go wrong, but I’m still shocked that this happened. Thankfully no one was injured.”
“This incident is an example of the careless manner in which Mountaineer Gas is installing the gas pipeline to Rockwool,” said Christine Wimer, President of Jefferson County Foundation. “We have again and again tried to get Mountaineer Gas to have the pipeline appropriately permitted, but they have refused to do so. The regulators are all too happy to oblige Mountaineer Gas’s obfuscation of the regulatory requirements. The regulators have abandoned their post of protecting the public. This cannot be tolerated.”