Cause of Ellsworth County natural gas line explosion under investigation

ELLSWORTH COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) – A cause of a natural gas line explosion in Ellsworth County Thursday remains under investigation.

“The cause remains unknown. We have a post-incident investigation team on site that is currently working to identify the cause, as well as complete the repair,” said JoAnna DeWald, senior attorney for Northern Natural Gas.

A one-mile radius is being secured after the company that operates the pipeline calls it a “rare occurrence.”

“It’s extremely rare. Historically speaking, most often, Northern Natural Gas which has been operating for dozens of years, has experienced zero to one incidents like this per year,” said DeWald.

A team of federal and company investigators are at the site trying to figure out what caused the leak that led to the explosion.

“Most incidents like this are caused by third-party damage. That’s a situation where someone is excavating or digging, and they don’t call the 811 number before doing so because of the pipes. That’s the most likely cause of this type of an incident in this incident that happened up in Ellsworth County,” she said.

But there is no evidence of that in this explosion. Eyewitness News video shows no excavation equipment, and the company tells us they have no reason to believe a third party caused this.

The company is required to work with their own investigators, as well as federal investigators to answer questions, such as:

⋅ How did this pipeline in the middle of a pasture rupture?

⋅ Is the rest of the pipeline, which in some areas run close to populated areas, safe?

⋅ What caused it to ignite?

“Northern Natural Gas is committed to complying with all federal safety standards and going above and beyond to ensure that safety is first and foremost taken care of,” said DeWald. “So we’re doing everything we can and will continue to do so. And to the extent that a cause is identified that we need to remedy, we will.”

This is the second incident the gas company has experienced in Kansas this month. In Lyons, there was an issue with a storage injection well, leading to a smell and evacuations. The company said the two incidents are unrelated.

“I can tell you with 100% certainty there’s absolutely no connection between the Ellsworth pipeline incident and the Lyons storage well incident. The timing is purely coincidental. The infrastructure involved in those two incidents is completely different,” said DeWald.

For more information about the Northern Natural Gas safety and public awareness overview, click here, or informational postings, click here.

For more information about the Kansas Pipeline Association, click here.

To locate a pipeline near you, using the National Pipeline Mapping System, click here.

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