PA Families Evacuated Near Mark West Facility After Lightning Strike

by Duane Nichols on May 31, 2014

Mark West Gas Plant, Houston, PA

Westland Gas Processing Facility Struck by Lightning: Fire & Evacuations

From an Article in Marcellus Monitor, May 28, 2014

Lightening struck a release valve at the MarkWest Marcellus Shale gas processing plant in Chartiers Township, Washington County in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, starting a fire and prompting officials to evacuate about 50 people living near the facility.

Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi said hazmat teams were on scene to determine if the gas that escaped the valve and formed a plume of smoke above the compressor station was hazardous.

“They were almost certain that it is not,” he said. Washington County Public Safety Director Jeffrey Yates said just after 7 p.m. that the valves had been shut off.

Western Avenue remains closed, and Maggi suggested drivers avoid the area as a precaution.

A cell phone message left for MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale was not immediately returned Wednesday. Washington County 911 said they had no information on the incident.

See also:

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one } 5-29-14 June 2, 2014 at 7:39 am

Marcellus Shale gas plant being inspected after lightning prompts evacuation, Associated Press, May 29, 2014

HOUSTON, Pennsylvania — Lightning hit a southwestern Pennsylvania gas refinery Wednesday evening, prompting the evacuation of homes within two miles of the plant.

The Markwest Energy Partners facility in Chartiers Township was struck about 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 28th.

Witnesses and Washington County 911 officials said a smell of natural gas and a vapor cloud were reported, which prompted officials to tell dozens of residents to leave. No injuries were reported at the plant or surrounding areas, and residents returned to their homes at about 9:30 p.m.

“I saw it hit. Then there was this big, loud, hissing noise,” resident Linda Cumer told the Observer-Reporter. “Then something started spewing into the air out around the tanks on the hill.”

The homes were evacuated as a safety precaution after a brief fire released propane gas into the air, Washington County Commissioner Harlan Shober said.

But MarkWest Energy Partners said Thursday company officials inspecting the site found no evidence that a fire had occurred. The refinery will remain closed until an inspection is completed. “The complex’s safety control system worked as designed,” the company said.

Shawn Sethman, who lives directly across from the plant, said he and other residents were unhappy with the evacuation process. Sethman said he’s requested an evacuation plan from MarkWest in the past and his request was denied for security reasons.

“I live within hundreds of feet, and I don’t know how we are to evacuate,” Sethman told the Observer-Reporter.

The plant is located about 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.


SkyLark 6/12/14 June 13, 2014 at 7:58 am


Residents living near MarkWest plant are wary

From an Article by Emily Petsko, Observer-Reporter, Washington, PA

Washington Co., June 12,2014 —- Shawn Sethman knew something was wrong before emergency responders even reached his doorstep during a severe thunderstorm in late May. He lives on Western Avenue across from the MarkWest Energy plant in Chartiers Township. Freaing the worst when he saw fire trucks the evening of May 28, he got in his car and headed straight for Washington, PA.
As he later learned, there was no fire or explosion, but lightning struck MarkWest’s natural gas processing plant and caused a leak. Nearly 100 residents were evacuated and directed by first responders to the nearest fire department, where they stayed for several hours while the leak was contained.
While no one was injured, Sethman and several others living near the plant said they are wary of their industrial neighbor. “For us being as close as we are, I don’t think we’re ever safe,” said Sethman, who has two young children. “That lightning strike was small compared to what could happen there.”
In the past year, numerous residents complained about the frequency of flarings that discharge flames and plumes of black smoke into the sky. The lightning strike and evacuation also heightened tensions.
To assuage fears, MarkWest officials delivered letters this week to residents who were evacuated during the storm. MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale said the company wants to apologize for any inconvenience and offer thanks to the first responders.
Many residents were confused during the incident because first responders initially could not divulge what happened. Sethman and his wife, Erin, submitted a right-to-know request to Chartiers Township asking for a copy of an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. That request was denied because of “security reasons,” Sethman said.
McHale said MarkWest is not responsible for developing an evacuation plan if the impact extends beyond the company’s property line and affects the general public. He said it’s up to the first responders to develop a plan.
State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, said an alert system should be developed to notify residents of any issues at the MarkWest plant. White said “acts of God” like lightning strikes cannot be avoided, but he believes problems at the plant are occurring more frequently. “These ‘isolated incidents’ are becoming less and less isolated,” White said, adding that the PA Department of Environmental Protection needs to be more proactive.
Dan Bykens, of Mt. Pleasant Township, lives next to a MarkWest compressor station and less than three miles from the main plant. An air quality monitor placed at his property, provided by the SWPA Environmental Health Project, gave a “very unhealthy” or “unhealthy for all” reading on six of the 33 days monitored from April to May. A reading for particulate matter was “unhealthy for sensitive groups” on nine days and “moderate” for the remaining 18 days.
Bykens believes there is a connection between the poor air quality and his proximity to the MarkWest plant. He was not evacuated after the lightning strike, but said he worries about future accidents, and especially the environmental impact of flarings. “I’m more concerned about air quality right now,” said Bykens, who can see the plant from his front yard. “But the accidents, I mean, to be honest with you, if there’s a major accident, I ain’t going to be around to worry about it anyhow.”
MarkWest is still in the process of repairing a heat exchanger that was damaged by the lightning strike. The company has been rerouting some gas to its complex in Majorsville, W.Va., about 25 miles southwest of Houston, to keep production levels at capacity while the Chartiers plant is repaired.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: