Colonial Pipeline Explosion and Fire Under Investigation

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A fire in the woods near Helena, Alabama, from a gas pipeline explosion

By Glynn Wilson –

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the Colonial Pipeline explosion and fire in Helena, Alabama, which killed one worker and seriously injured four others.

The major gasoline pipeline, built in 1963, that had already busted in September and was leaking, causing fears of a gas shortage in the Southeast, ruptured again on Monday and exploded while workers were trying to fix it, digging with a trackhoe.

A team of five NTSB investigators arrived Thursday and will be in Alabama for several days conducting interviews, documenting the accident site and collecting evidence. Investigators will also visit the Colonial Pipeline offices in Alpharetta, Georgia, to interview operations and engineering staff and collect operating data and documents, the board said in an announcement on Friday.

Meanwhile, the company announced Friday that the fire was finally extinguished, operations are underway to remove residual gasoline from the pipeline, and it expects to put the pipeline back into operation by Sunday afternoon.

The fire burned for more than three days, and the disruption in gasoline transportation will end up being six days. It was shut down for 12 days in September after the discovery of a leak that spilled an estimated 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline into an inactive Shelby County coal mine near the Cahaba River, leading to fuel supply disruptions, gas shortages and price increases in parts of the Southeast.

The 5,500-mile (8,850-km) pipeline is being called the largest refined products pipeline system in the U.S. It is capable of moving more than 3 million barrels of gasoline, diesel fuel and/or jet fuel a day between the U.S. Gulf Coast and New York Harbor.

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Anthony Lee Willingham

Company officials identified Heflin resident Anthony Lee Willingham, 48, as the worker who died in the explosion. He was a welder and heavy machinery worker for L.E. Bell Construction. He was married to Beverly Willingham for 25 years and had two daughters and several grandchildren.

Environmental and conservation groups in Alabama have been mute on the pipeline leak, explosion and fire, with one member of the Cahaba River Society quoted praising the company’s quick response in the mainstream Newhouse news monopoly outfit Al Dot Com.

Meanwhile, the Standing Rock Sioux in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, are still camped out at the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers by a pipeline under construction near their reservation, protesting not just a potential environmental disaster but the ongoing Holocaust against Native American people.

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.