Company: Blast-damaged gasoline line should reopen Sunday

(Courtesy: Alabaster Fire Department)
(Courtesy: Alabaster Fire Department)

HELENA, Ala. (AP) — The gasoline pipeline that exploded and erupted in flames in Alabama this week should be back in service Sunday, the pipeline company said.

Colonial Pipeline Co. is constantly reassessing the timeline for a restart but that its current projection is Sunday afternoon, the company said in a statement issued late Thursday. That eases worries about gasoline shortages or price increases.

The large pipeline, which transports gasoline from the Gulf Coast to New York City, exploded Monday while a crew was making repairs related to a September gas spill.

MORE: Southeast gas shortage in September

Government officials and Colonial Pipeline have said a piece of excavation equipment hit the pipeline, causing the explosion, but further details haven’t been released.

Shelby County Deputy Coroner Lina Evans said Anthony Lee Willingham, 48, of Heflin, Alabama, died in the blast. Four other people were injured and remained hospitalized.

MORE: Alabama pipeline explosion

Colonial said it began excavating Wednesday night at the Shelby County site, located about 25 miles southwest of Birmingham.

An inspection showed a nearby pipeline which carries diesel, jet fuel and other products wasn’t damaged in the explosion, Colonial said Thursday, and testing showed no fuel in the Cahaba River, about a mile from the explosion, or a creek that feeds the river.

Congressional Democrats have asked for a federal investigation of Colonial Pipeline, and the Waterkeeper Alliance, which includes Cahaba Riverkeeper, said the explosion was the sixth incident involving the company’s pipeline in Alabama this year.

“It is time for spills, leaks, and accidents from the Colonial pipeline to end in Alabama. We cannot afford to continue playing Russian Roulette with lives and our drinking water,” the organization said in a statement.

The company has defended its operations, saying in a statement: “We have robust system integrity, inspection and maintenance programs that meet or exceed all federal regulatory requirements.”