Safety expert: Plano blast could have been 'catastrophic'

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on June 20, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 20 at 6:12 PM

PLANO — The FBI remains tight-lipped on the man at the center of the Plano bombing case. Neighbors found him badly injured near the natural gas regulator station late Sunday night, just off West Parker Road.

That man is still in the hospital, his identity a secret.

A pipeline safety expert from Conroe said the explosion at the regulator station could have easily turned into a deadly neighborhood disaster.

The blast shook more than windows; it rattled nerves and left nearby homeowners wondering about the potential for disaster.

"How many regulators are there? How easy is it to go out there and blow them up? What are they going to do from keeping it from happening again?” asked Ron Herblin, who lives nearby.

Don Deaver spent 33 years with Exxon Pipeline and another 14 years as a consultant and expert witness. Deaver said a bomb could have caused a catastrophe in the Plano neighborhood where it went off.

"It could ignite in a neighborhood and cause a very, very large fire that could affect numerous homes that could almost decimate an entire neighborhood," Deaver said.

The safety expert said damaging the regulator station could also cause other dangerous problems in the community. “If those regulators were disabled or destroyed or damaged, all of a sudden neighbors could see gas that is considerably higher pressure, and that could cause leaks and blowouts of equipment," Deaver said.

Plano public safety officials concede that the scenarios Deaver describes are "plausible." But they point out that Plano is not unique.

There are similar gas regulator stations across Texas and the U.S. The city told News 8 that officials been in contact with Atmos Energy to discuss their concerns about safety.

Deaver says one solution would be to enclose the regulators in a blast-proof concrete housing, a preventative measure neighbors would like to see.

"What's the expense if it blew up the entire neighborhood?" Herblin asked.

Atmos did not discuss tampering, but maintains their regulators and pipelines are safe and reliable.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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