Cleanup Underway After Gas Explosion

Clean up efforts are underway at Tennessee Gas where an explosion rocked the Ansley Compressor Station in Hancock County Tuesday night.

DEQ officials say the explosion happened when lightning struck a tank full of used oil. No one was injured, and there appears to be only minimal damage to the environment.

"The one tank that was totally destroyed contained about 4,000 gallons of used oil in there. The majority of that oil stayed inside the perimeter, the berm area, so that was easily vacuumed... A couple of hundred gallons actually went outside onto the grass and onto the ground," Earl Etheridge, a field supervisor with the Mississippi DEQ, said.

Fortunately Etheridge says the impact to the environment will be minimal.

"If it had got out into the ditches and flowed into the neighborhood, then we'd have a real problem. But everything was inside their fence line. Everything that did get out is on their property."

The explosion could be heard miles away.

Judy Propst lives about 500 feet from Tennessee Gas. She was watching television when she heard the blast.

"It literally sounded like somebody had set a bomb off. It was very, very loud."

Fire officials say the blast was so massive it blew the main part of the tank clear across the street from the plant, about 400 feet into the woods.

"It was scary. It makes me wonder about the future of it," Propst said.

The compressor station is automated, so it's not manned around the clock. In fact, the plant has been closed for maintenance for the past few months.

Propst and her neighbor, Alfred Serio, say they'd feel safer with someone there at all times.

"If somebody's not walking around and checking things every now and then, they don't know if anything's going on."

DEQ officials say Tennessee Gas won't be penalized because a lightening strike caused the accident.

"But they do have a responsibility, even though it was an act of God, to do the proper thing with the cleanup," Etheridge said.

DEQ officials estimate it should take about week to do the clean up work.

by Al Showers