Pipeline Blast Rattles Moundsville Residents

MOUNDSVILLE – Cooking breakfast in his kitchen shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday, Frank Elza Jr. of Middle Grave Creek Road had no idea he and his family would soon be on the run due to the rupture of a 12-inch pipeline carrying natural gas to the Williams Energy Oak Grove processing plant.

Now, Elza said he may look to move from the place he has called home for 36 years because he has pipelines running near both sides of his house. He estimates the rupture occurred about one-quarter mile from his home.

On Monday, contractors could be seen in the woods in the direction Elza said the pipeline is located.

“It sounded like dynamite being set off. Then it sounded like a jet engine running at the airport,” Elza said of the Saturday rupture and resulting fire. “We saw a huge ball of flame and could feel the heat.”

Elza said he, along with his wife and visiting granddaughter, quickly collected some of their things. They then jumped in the car to drive toward Moundsville.

“We didn’t know what was happening. It was just one of those things where your adrenaline starts flowing, and you know you’ve got to go,” he said.

Williams spokesman Scott Carney said the company evacuated six residents who lived in the vicinity of the rupture for precautionary purposes. These residents were allowed to return home Sunday, he said.

Elza, however, did not get the message to evacuate because he and his family were already gone.

“At about 7:30 (p.m.), I tried to get back to the house to get my cats, but they would not let me through,” he said.

Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said Middle Grave Creek Road re-opened to traffic at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday. This is about the time Elza and those who evacuated were allowed to return home.

Hart and Carney said there were no injuries, and no adjacent property was damaged due to the fire. Carney said the precise cause of the rupture remains under investigation, but said “initial reports of a land slip seem likely.”

Elza said he holds no ill feelings toward Williams because he understands the workers are just doing their jobs. He also said the company regularly communicates with residents regarding its work.

However, Elza said having the Williams pipeline on one side of his house, along with a natural gas-gathering pipeline on the other side, and the Oak Grove plant just up the hill, makes for a leery situation.

“It just makes you wonder if you are sitting on a time bomb,” he said. “I have a nice place here. Do I want to stay?”