PUC continues investigation into Pittsburgh area house explosion, gives an update

29 August 2023- The investigation of a deadly August 12th house explosion in Plum Borough, Allegheny County, by the Safety Division of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) remains active and ongoing, exploring whether public utility infrastructure or operations contributed to the cause and circumstances surrounding this tragic incident.

Plum Investigation Overview

Pipeline safety engineers from the Safety Division, which is part of the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E), responded to the scene of a reported explosion and house fire at 141 Rustic Ridge Drive in Plum and have continued to gather evidence, analyze data, and monitor testing to determine whether there are any violations of state or federal pipeline safety regulations.

To date, the ongoing Safety Division investigation has included the following:

  • Interviewing residents, first responders, Peoples Gas employees and others who witnessed the incident or have relevant information.
  • Monitoring testing by Peoples Gas of natural gas mains, service lines and other public utility facilities in the Rustic Ridge Drive neighborhood, including:
    • Pressure testing of utility systems.
    • Leak surveys and other testing for natural gas readings.
    • Odor level testing in the Peoples Gas system.
    • The gathering of gas samples for laboratory analysis.
    • Purging the Peoples Gas natural gas system before placing it back into service.
    • Geophysical testing around the incident site being conducted for Peoples Gas by a third-party expert.
  • Working with the fire marshal to access the incident site to identify and recover the gas meter, regulator, service lines and other public utility systems.
  • Observing the pressure testing of a PENNECO Oil Company production line behind the incident site and the performance of leak surveys by PENNECO.

Additionally, safety engineers have closely monitored the safe restoration of electric and natural gas service to undamaged homes in the neighborhood. This includes observation of Peoples Gas personnel performing service restoration for customers whose service was shut off because of the incident; testing of valves on service lines and abandon services for structures around the incident site that were damaged and/or condemned; and continued safety checks by Peoples Gas in the Rustic Ridge neighborhood.

Moving forward, the Safety Division continues to review operator records and maps of public utility facilities around the incident site and remains in close communication with the Allegheny County Fire Marshal, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Peoples Gas and other entities involved in the investigation of this incident.