Gas pipe that should have been replaced years ago overlooked before print-shop explosion

Southwest Gas said that “The cause of the leak and the subsequent explosion was premature degradation in a certain type of natural gas pipe (Driscopipe 8000)” Aug. 26 in West Chandler.  –Photo by Lee Shappell for wranglernews.com

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Southwest Gas said that a type of natural-gas pipe in West Chandler that has a history of premature degradation in desert heat was not replaced in a remediation effort due to a clerical error, contributing to the Aug. 26 print-shop explosion that destroyed the business and seriously injured four men, two of whom remain hospitalized.

The gas pipe at the strip center on the northeastern corner of Ray and Rural roads is Driscopipe 8000, however it had been mislabeled by a Southwest Gas employee and therefore was not replaced because it was not flagged.

An investigation into the explosion by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Chandler fire and police and the gas company showed that the Driscopipe 8000 leading into Platinum Printing had degraded prematurely, contributing to the blast.

Southwest Gas said that the explosion could have been avoided if it had known to replace the faulty pipe. It pointed out that there had been no reports of the rotten egg or sulphury odor that is put into natural gas as a tipoff, and which typically is associated with a gas leak.

“The cause of the leak and the subsequent explosion was premature degradation in a certain type of natural gas pipe (Driscopipe 8000) that was purchased by Southwest Gas between approximately 1980-1999,” Southwest Gas said in a statement.

Hallie Donohue, sister of brothers Dillon and Andrew Ryan, who own Platinum Printing, wrote on their GoFundMe page Sept. 13 that both are out of the hospital.

“Things took a very POSITIVE turn at the end of the week and on Thursday Dillon was transferred to an acute care rehab facility where he continues to get wound care as well as work on his physical healing with different therapies and exercises,” Donohue wrote. “He is doing great and continues to get stronger each day. There is a lot motivating him to get home, so we are hopeful he will get to go home and be reunited with his family very soon!

“We thought for sure Andrew would be transferred to the rehab facility the next day as well, but he ended up getting discharged from the hospital on Friday and got to go home!”

On Sept. 16, Donohue shared that Dillon was released from the care facility and went home on Sept. 15.

Parker Milldebrandt, their lifelong friend and employee, remains in Valleywise Health Arizona Burn Center, as does  Glenn Jordan, owner of All-America Eyeglass Repair, which is a couple of suites west of the print shop in the strip center.

On Sept. 6, JeAnnette Miller, organizer of Milldebrandt’s GoFundMe page, wrote that his wife, Sierra, had given birth to a girl, Rilee, who checked in 8 pounds and 18 inches.

“Both Sierra and baby are doing well,” Miller wrote. “Parker is doing great. He had surgery yesterday and it went extremely well. He is continuing to work hard with his physical therapy and is making great strides.”

Dave Hawkins, organizer of Jordan’s GoFundMe page, on Sept. 6 wrote that Jordan was “awake for several days last week and we were able to share the messages of encouragement for him and tell him how much he is loved by all and how many people are pulling for him. He is currently sedated for continued comfort and pain management after undergoing several surgeries.”

While expected to make full recoveries, the four face heavy medical bills during a lengthy recovery process. Anyone who wishes to donate money to help them can go to their GoFundMe pages:

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration nine years ago warned that Driscopipe 8000 purchased during that era was susceptible to degradation in certain conditions, including excessive heat.

The Driscopipe 8000 line to the print shop was installed in 1999.

“PHMSA noted that material degradation has been identified on 8000 pipes installed from 1978 through 1999 in desert-like environments in the southwestern United States,” Southwest Gas said.

Southwest Gas initiated a remediation program in which sections of Driscopipe were inspected and, if necessary, replaced if degradation was found. The company would have replaced the faulty section at the print shop had it been properly flagged and inspected, it said.

“An error in the construction records misidentified the type of gas pipe used near the building where the Aug. 26 incident occurred, which resulted in exempting the pipe from Southwest Gas’ prior remediation effort,” the Southwest Gas statement read.

Southwest Gas is investigating the clerical error in mislabeling the faulty pipe, it said. It also has implemented extensive leak inspections, including walking leak patrols of pipe similar to that used at the print shop.

Southwest Gas encourages anyone who suspects a gas leak to leave the area immediately and call 911 and Southwest Gas at 1-877-860-6020.

Lee Shappell
Lee Shappell became a journalist because he didn’t become a rocket scientist! He exhausted the math courses available by his junior year in high school and earned early admission to Rice University, intending to take advantage of its relationship with the Johnson Space Center and become an aerospace engineer. But as a high school senior, needing a class to be eligible for sports with no more math available, he took student newspaper as a credit and was hooked. He studied journalism at the UofA and has been senior reporter, copy desk chief and managing editor at several Valley publications.

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