Gas plant hosts Q&A one week after explosion

Gas plant hosts Q&A one week after explosion »Play Video
PLYMOUTH, Wash. -- It's been a week since the Plymouth gas plant explosion that sent five to the hospital and finally, on Tuesday night, residents of the small community were able to question the policy and procedure used. For some, it was a chance to say thank you; for others, to offer suggestion.

"This plant is a pretty critical facility for Northwest Pipeline."

Northwest Pipeline vice-president Ed Brewer started off Tuesday’s meeting by explaining the importance of the plant and every person in the room.

Questions were fielded from the crowd ranging from “Is the plant safe?” - which, yes, they say it is - to specifics into how the accident occurred.

"We've narrowed our investigation down to a pressure vessel, but what we don't know right now is exactly why that tank ruptured," Brewer said.

That tank was holding 14 million gallons of liquified natural gas, or LNG. On Tuesday, we discovered it's still not empty.

“We're in the process of transferring the LNG from Tank 1 over to Tank 2 as we speak. We started that process today," Brewer said.

That process could take a week and the investigation hinges on being able to get inside.

“We'll actually get people inside that area to inspect that part of the tank," said Von Studer, the district manager for the Plymouth plant.

Williams executives say there's no evidence Tank 2 was compromised.

Tank 1 has been in service since when the plant began operation in 1975, which leaves some wondering could it happen again.

“There's no moving parts in it,” said Studer. “It could be as simple as it ran its life cycle. That’s something with metallurgy testing they'll do."

In the meantime, suggestions came from the crowd on how to ensure safety precautions are in place. One man suggested installing sirens in town for warning.

“It's something we need to look into, especially for you residents and the concern we put on your shoulders with this," said Brewer.

Another suggested a standard protocol of where to go and when.

“People were evacuated first to the fire station, then to Umatilla, then to Hermiston,” said the Plymouth resident. “It was like a Chinese fire drill."

It's all part of the learning process and reason for the meeting: to improve. But, multiple people noted they're starting in a good place because everyone that day came home.

KEPR was able to ask why Oregon residents within the blast radius across the river weren't notified. Benton County officials told KEPR Umatilla County decided for their residents not to send evacuation orders.