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There was a lot to talk about after the explosion

February 16, 2011
Morning Journal News

Residents of Columbiana County are still talking about Thursday night's explosion of the natural gas pipeline owned by Tennessee Gas in Hanover Township.

Everyone loves to tell stories about whether or not they heard the explosion, or whether they could see the orange glow from their home or hear the roar of the blaze from miles away.

The 36-inch Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which runs through the farm of Neil and Richard Zehentbauer in Hanover Township, exploded about 10:30 p.m., sending a fireball hundreds of feet into the night sky that could be seen up to 45 miles away. While we were amazed with the view of the fiery sky, what impressed us most is the way local safety forces, especially fire departments, immediately sprang into action to respond, even though at first many couldn't figure out where or to what they were responding.

Seventeen fire departments were involved in some capacity, but the primary departments were from Hanover Township, Guilford Lake, Winona, Lisbon, Franklin Township and Minerva. It's amazing how quickly they mobilized and how they coordinated efforts and backed each other up. Keep in mind, too, that these are all volunteer departments. They don't do this full time to make a living. They all have other jobs and lives, but they still do a remarkable job when duty calls.

We're disappointed, however, that safety forces' efforts were somewhat hampered by the traffic problems created by the large number of "rubber-neckers" trying to get to the scene. While those of us in the media must put ourselves at risk to report information to the public, we can't understand those who put themselves in harm's way for no other reason than to satisfy their curiosity. When the next tragedy occurs, we hope these curiosity seekers will consider how they jeopardize not only themselves, but public safety as well, and stay home.

We were fortunate that the explosion occurred in a remote area and did not threaten human lives, although a cow reportedly perished. Property damage was also minimal, and pipeline owner El Paso, the parent company of the Tennessee Gas, has said it will pay for any damage, including rebuilding a blown-out section of McKaig Road once the investigation is concluded and pipeline repairs are completed. The company also is covering the overtime being incurred by county sheriff's deputies providing security at the site.

We're glad that Tennessee Gas is trying to be a good neighbor, and we hope this infrastructure failure doesn't result in an environmental backlash attempting to foster a movement against gas transmission lines.

It's true that things such as gas lines and overhead power lines do pose some danger, that's the price we must pay for our modern civilization. Unless we all want to live in dark, unheated caves, we must be willing to risk a little danger to provide for our modern conveniences.

But we do hope this incident serves as a wakeup call for the company to step up its inspection procedures and ensure that gas lines remain safe.



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