Austin, TX – Beginning in October 2006 and within a span of seven months, four people were killed and five injured in three separate house explosions.
In all three cases, natural gas had leaked out of a particular style of pipe connector that WFAA-TV discovered has a fatal legacy of failure.
A report just released by the Texas Railroad Commission Safety Division finds that the concerns over non-restraint compression couplings attached to natural gas pipes are justified.
While only two percent of all reported gas leaks are related to compression coupling failures, TRC Chairman Michael Williams says that’s enough to be concerned.
“We are always concerned anytime there’s an incident that causes serious bodily injury or death or damage to property,” Williams said. “”We are concerned after it happens and we are concerned before, in trying to prevent it.”
TRC Safety Director Mary McDaniel spent nine months gathering information about the use of nearly 800,000 compression couplings still in the ground in Texas.
She determined that there can be a variety of reasons why some of the connections fail, including “third party damage,” the most frequently-cited cause.
A “change in soil ocnditions” was behind the Wiley explosion that killed Benny and Martha Cryer in 2006, according to the report.
But the common thread in all of the cases is this:
“Compression fittings failed to provide adequate restraint in all conditions”.
As a result, McDaniel recommends all non-restraint compression couplings still in the ground must come out once they are located. The decision could result in tens of millions of dollars in extra costs for gas companies like Atmos.
Safety officials believe it’s worth the money and effort to save lives.
Commissioners will vote on those recommendations in two weeks.