Lightening struck a release valve at the MarkWest Marcellus Shale gas processing plant in Chartiers Township, Washington County on Wednesday, starting a fire and prompting officials to evacuate about 50 people living near the facility.
Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi said hazmat teams were on scene to determine if the gas that escaped the valve and formed a plume of smoke above the compressor station was hazardous.
“They were almost certain that it is not,” he said.
Washington County Public Safety Director Jeffrey Yates said just after 7 p.m. that the valves had been shut off.
Western Avenue remains closed, and Maggi suggested drivers avoid the area as a precaution.
Cell phone messages left for MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Washington County 911 said they had no information on the incident.
Editor’s Note: The following update was posted on the Facebook page of state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil:
“UPDATE (7:36 PM): Apparently the evacuation has been upgraded to Stage 2, extended to the steel plant (old Allegheny Ludlum plant).
UPDATE (7:47 PM): According to a resident living nearby, there are still flames and smoke at the plant (not where they usually flare). Per another resident on the scene, the Red Cross is being dispatched to the Chartiers Twp. Fire Dept, which is running on a generator because the power is out. And according to the scanner, Markwest alarms are going off at 519 and Medding Road.”
A first responder sent me this info via Facebook around 8 p.m.:
“The evacuated people are being taken to Mount Pleasant Fire Station 41. Fort Cherry Ambulance and Greens Taxi sent two passenger busses down to shuttle people from the Votech on Western Avenue to the fire station.”