A year after a powerful explosion at the liquified natural gas tank farm in Plymouth a federal report on the cause of the blast has yet to be released.
Pipeline officials plan to come to Plymouth in early summer to talk more with residents about the blast, which injured five workers and shook the rural Benton County town of about 300, said a company spokeswoman.
“A thorough incident investigation was completed, and operating procedures have been reviewed and modified to enhance work practices,” Michele Swaner with Williams Partners said in an email.
The March 31 explosion that sent shrapnel flying into a 14.6 million-gallon gas storage tank is being investigated by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, Department of Labor & Industries and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
A spokeswoman with the state utilities commission said Tuesday the official report is not yet finished.
While officials work on wrapping up the report, a $69 million project is under way to repair the ruptured tank and other damage.
Repairs are expected to be done by the end of the year, Swaner said. The entire Northwest Pipeline facility should be operating by February or March 2016.
The explosion that could be heard 20 miles away caused a fire and damaged several buildings on the 80-acre property, including a control room and mechanic shop. It took more than a day to get natural gas to stop leaking from the damaged tank, one of two on the property that are about 90-feet tall.
It’s unclear how much gas was lost, though the tank was about a third full with an estimated 7 million gallons inside, officials said.
About 1,000 residents and agricultural workers in a two-mile radius were evacuated as a precaution but were allowed to return the next day.
Four of the injured workers returned to work. One man, who suffered burns, retired, said Swaner.
Crews with Benton Fire District 6, the fire department in Plymouth with only two full-time firefighters, were the first to the scene and eventually more than 100 first responders arrived to help.
Fire officials, including District 6 Chief Ronald Watt, told the Herald he sees no need to change how they handled the emergency.
“We were prepared in the fact that we had mutual aid (from other emergency agencies),” Watt said. “If it happened again today we would have the same plan in place.”
Watt said they learned more about liquified natural gas and believes the policies at the plant designed to reduce danger worked well.
Fire officials held community meetings after the explosion and Watt said residents seemed satisfied with how the incident was handled by the company, he said.
Watt told the Herald while the plant is the “elephant in the room,” there is not a daily worry that another explosion could rock the town.
“There were lessons learned during it,” Watt said. “Again, the gas company is extremely professional in how they handled it and handled the fuel itself.”