SEARSMONT — Residents within a five-mile vicinity of a natural gas line that runs through Waldo County got a New Year’s Eve jolt just before midnight when a pressure valve blew at the Searsmont pumping station on the New England Road. To some, it sounded like a jet plane taking off, as a column of gas shot into the air.
The 670-mile Maritimes and Northeast Gas Pipeline travels through Maine and Canada on its way to Boston, and is owned primarily by Spectra Energy Partners LP. Part of the pipeline runs through the northwest corner of Searsmont, where a pumping station is located. At 11:54 p.m. Tuesday evening, New Year’s Eve, a pressure valve blew off at the station, sending gas 100 feet into the air. Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline carries offshore, onshore and LNG-sourced natural gas from Atlantic Canada to Massachusetts and then to other North American markets.
Based in Houston, Spectra operations company’s operations include more than 22,000 miles of natural gas, natural gas liquids, and crude oil pipelines, as well as storage facilities.
Searsmont Fire Department was called to the pumping station, although it was a crew in Houston, Texas, that remotely shut down the line via computer.
Searsmont Assistant Fire Chief Wayne Woodbury said very early in the morning Jan. 1 that nothing exploded at the pump station, and there was “no ignition of anything.”
If the latter occurred, or if there was a major leak in the line, the fire department would evacuate residents from the immediate area, he said.
The fire department responded to the pumping station, which is near the intersection of Route 3, with five firefighters and one engine. The fire engine stopped along the way at an unrelated accident that occurred simultaneously on the New England Road. No one was injured as a vehicle slid off the road into a ditch.
As the gas rose into the air it dissipated, said Woodbury, who arrived at the station gate in his own truck. No one was affected by fumes, he said.
Waldo County Communications Center in Belfast fielded many calls from concerned citizens as the pressure valve blew.
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