A home explosion Wednesday in Greene County leveled the house and burned three people who were inside. Investigators are trying to determine whether methane migration from nearby gas or coal operations played a role.
The explosion happened after a man tried to light a stove in the home, at 153 Bowser Road, said Shirl Barnhart, a Morgan Township supervisor.
LISTEN: “House Explodes in Greene County; Investigators Suspect Methane Migration”
“That young fellow was lighting a stove in his house and it was a gas buildup that he wasn’t aware of and it just kind of blew his house up,” Barnhart said.
The house belonged to the man’s parents, Mike and Laura White, Barnhart said. The man, his girlfriend, and a child were all life-flighted to a burn center in Pittsburgh.
“We’re suspecting it was probably a methane buildup ’cause methane doesn’t have that mercaptan in it to make it smell. So you had no idea there was any gas in there,” Barnhart said. “It could be some gas well. There’s gas storage fields in that area. There’s pipelines that could be leaking. It could be anything.”
The house was leveled, he said. “It’s totally gone. It just blew completely apart and everything burned up…blew the walls completely out.”
Peoples Gas, which provided gas to the house, is helping investigators with the Public Utilities Commission on finding a source for the gas that caused the explosion. PUC spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said the agency was working with federal investigators from the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
“Our safety team is working with Peoples Gas to isolate possible gas sources in the area and they are gathering gas samples for lab analysis to help determine where the gas is originating,” Hagen-Frederiksen said.
A nearby home was evacuated, after tests detected high gas levels there, said Barry Kukovich, spokesperson for Peoples.
“We have to determine if it came from inside the house, outside the house, from our lines, or whether it came from other companies’ lines,” Kukovich said. “Or there’s a storage well nearby and a number of wells nearby — a lot of those are shallow wells — there’s also a possibility it could be coal bed methane.”
Kukovich said the company won’t have analysis on gas samples it took at the site until next week.
EQT has the closest operating gas well in the area, Barnhart said.
Company spokeswoman Linda Robertson said in an email that the company was working with local authorities to test for pipeline and storage well leaks nearby. “Results of all testing to date were negative,” Robertson said. “We will continue to assist PHMSA and the DEP as they work to complete their investigation.”
This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.