Burst gas pipe sends at least four to emergency room

December 17, 2013

By Peter Clark

A burst gas pipe at the Cedar Hills Landfill south of Issaquah sent nearby residents to the emergency room Dec. 7.

That evening, neighbors began smelling a great deal of gas in their homes and responded by calling Eastside Fire & Rescue and the King County Solid Waste Division. According to an EFR report of the incident, all responding members identified gas in the area.

“Engine 71 proceeded to the address and was met by the homeowner,” Lt. Jason Ward’s EFR report reads. “The homeowner stated the smell of gas in the area was very strong. All three members of Engine 71 could smell landfill gas in the area.”

Supervisors at the scene found that the gas line used to pull landfill-produced methane gas into the Bio Energy Washington plant had ruptured. They immediately shut down the gas to the pipe.

“When we received the call, our landfill supervisor out there took a look and immediately shut down that pipeline,” said Kevin Keirnan, King County Solid Waste assistant director, though the department remains unsure what caused the rupture. “There were extremely low temperatures that night, but we don’t have the tests complete. It’s premature to draw that conclusion.”

Whatever the cause, the leakage affected neighbors in the area greatly. A local resident made the initial call to the Solid Waste Division after he smelled the odor in his house.

Several neighbors sought medical attention for respiratory problems relating to the leak. More chose to leave the vicinity entirely and wait out the smell and potential flammable danger in a hotel.

Keirnan did say the station had an alert system but the cold weather on Dec. 7, which got down to 19 degrees, obscured monitoring.

“Given the conditions that night, there were some issues with our monitoring. It really complicated the data,” he said. “There are systems in place.”

The King County Solid Waste Division issued a flyer to nearby residents Dec. 11, apprising them of the situation. King County Solid Waste performed tests at nearby residences and found no lingering evidence of methane gas.

“We have taken a number of steps in the meantime,” Keirnan said. “We are modifying our inspection procedures, where the night watchman will perform hourly inspections overnight. We’re also looking at long-term inspection procedures.”

He said the pipeline has been fully repaired though it still remains offline until the area passes further tests. He would not give an idea when the pipeline would operate again.

“Cedar Hills, as with all landfills, produces gas,” Keirnan said. “Right now, the flares are up and burning the gas now. We can’t give an exact timeline when we will use the pipeline again. We want to be certain that we have the resources in place and the staff in place.”

He reiterated the county’s commitment to the citizens and the neighbors of Cedar Hills Landfill.

“The county and the Solid Waste Division take this very seriously,” he said. “We want them to feel safe and be safe. Our first commitment is for the health and safety of all our neighbors.

The state Department of Ecology, King County Public Health and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency were all notified about the leak, but Keirnan said it is not clear if they will launch any further investigations of the incident.

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