Gas Plant Leak Forces Evacuation

Monday, June 2, 2014 @ 12:06 PM gHale

After a lightning strike at a PA natural gas refinery, residents ended up evacuated after officials discovered an unknown leak from the plant Wednesday.

A worker at the MarkWest Energy Partners refinery at 800 Western Ave. in Chartiers called 911 to report the lightning strike and fire just after 6 p.m., which ended up extinguished very quickly, said county 911 operations manager Ken Bollinger.

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“It appears there may have been some product leaking into the atmosphere,” he said.

Neighbors and the facility reported seeing a plume over the refinery. Company officials did not identify the substance or substances that caused the plume.

All employees and contractors at the plant ended up mustered and there were no injuries, said Bollinger and MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale, who was on the scene Wednesday night.

Residents ended up evacuated in a two-mile area, but returned home shortly after 9:30 p.m. The plant will remain closed until officials wrap up an inspection, McHale said.

The county Department of Public Safety’s hazardous materials team was on site monitoring air quality and “anything in the atmosphere,” Bollinger said.

A bus company helped transport residents north of the plant to the Mount Pleasant Volunteer Fire Company in Hickory and those to the south to the Chartiers Township Fire Department hall in Houston. Bollinger was not sure how many people evacuated.

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