Four workers injured at gas plant blast near Pittsburgh

MarkWest's Houston gas processing plant in Washington County, Pa. (Reid R. Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

MarkWest's Houston gas processing plant in Washington County, Pa. (Reid R. Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

Four workers were injured after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant in Washington County late Thursday.

The blast happened shortly after 6 p.m. at MarkWest’s Houston Processing and Fractionation Facility at 800 Western Avenue in Chartiers Township.

Neighbors said they heard a loud boom from the plant, which processes natural gas from around the region.

Brenda McDonald lives down the road. She was at a store nearby when she got a call from her husband that there had been an explosion and a fire that lit up the neighborhood.

“He said he opened up the door and the boom bounced him basically off the couch,” McDonald said. “The dog jumped in his arms and when they opened up the front door it was like daylight (outside).” 

She said she’s been evacuated four times since the plant opened in 2011, but wasn’t evacuated this time. After she got home, she watched footage from a security camera on her property showing the blaze.

“It started as a small ball of flame and then it went into a light like two large pops,” she said. “It lit the whole entire valley all the way to my house. (It) was like daylight.”

The plant is owned by Colorado-based MarkWest. Its parent company, Marathon Petroleum, released a statement saying the incident occurred near a pair of temporary storage tanks that were on-site for routine maintenance.

The four workers were taken to local hospitals. A spokesperson for the the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the workers were employed by Energy Transportation LLC of Bridgeport, W.Va. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The UPMC hospital system would not release information on the workers’ conditions.

The plant was shut down. OSHA and Pennsylvania State Police fire marshals are investigating.

In November, the EPA announced a consent decree fining MPLX, the Marathon subsidiary that owns the plant, $925,000 for air violations at various facilities, including the Houston plant.

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