PEMBROKE — “When it went off I popped out of bed,” Talford Dial said.
That was how the 70-year-old Prospect resident recalled his reaction about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday to the noise of a natural gas leak at a pipeline compressor station about 400 yards from his home on Red Bank Road. There are woods between his home and the compressor station, but it still sounded like a “747 taking off,” said Dial, who has lived his entire life on Red Bank Road.
“It woke up everybody in the community,” he said.
Dial considers himself fortunate that no one traveling down N.C. 710, which is near the station, flicked a burning cigarette butt out of their vehicle and ignited the gas leaking into the air. He lives in what is called the “incinerator zone,” Dial said.
“If that thing goes off I cease to exist,” he said.
Dial lives near two pipelines, one built in 1957 and the other completed in 2013. He remembers when the older of the two was built.
“It was never an unsafe situation,” Jennifer Sharpe, a communications consultant with Piedmont Natural Gas, said of the leak.
The leak, caused by a malfunctioning valve, was detected about 3:40 a.m. in the Natural Gas Control Room in the company’s headquarters in Charlotte, Sharpe said. A crew was dispatched to make repairs. No local emergency personnel were called to the station.
“Everything was over by about 5 a.m.,” she said.
The gas that leaked is lighter than air and would have risen quickly into the atmosphere, Sharpe said.
“Safety is first with Piedmont Natural Gas,” Sharpe said.
The safety and monitoring systems in place worked excellently, she said. It is for safety reasons that she would not say exactly where the compressor station is located.
A compressor station is used to maintain the pressure needed to push gas through a pipeline and get it to customers, she said.
“It’s like pushing something through a pipe,” Sharpe said. “You can only push it so far.”
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]