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Emergency responders from Susquehanna, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties have been called to an explosion at a natural gas compressor station in Springville Township where witnesses report grey and black smoke billowing from the complex out of a hole blown through the roof.
Helen Humphreys, a spokeswoman for Williams, the company that operates the Lathrop compressor station, was traveling to the station at around 12:45 p.m. and could not characterize the incident, but said all employees and contractors on the site have been accounted for.
"Our first focus is going to be to contain and isolate the situation. They may already have been able to do that," she said.
Colleen Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection, said regulators were alerted to the explosion at around 11:30 a.m. and are responding to the site.
There is a natural gas blow off from the site, she said. Chinchilla Hose Co. in South Abington Township has been called in to provide a foam material to help contain the gas and fire.
"They are trying right now to shut off the natural gas release valve," she said.
Susquehanna County Communication Center dispatchers and officials with the county Emergency Management Agency said they were too busy to provide details about the incident. Wyoming and Lackawanna county dispatchers called for fire companies to provide backup, but said information about the incident would have to be released by Susquehanna County.
Vera Scroggins, a critic of natural gas development, said she followed fire trucks to the Lathrop compressor station off Route 29, where gas from Marcellus Shale wells in the county is pressurized for transport through pipelines.
She said she could see "a black, dark gray smoke" coming from the middle of the complex, but no visible flames.
Fire crews were ringing the property and using a bucket to raise firefighters to get a better view of the structure enclosing the compressors, she said.
Paul Karpich, who lives about a quarter mile from the compressor station, said he heard a "boom" this morning but it was not remarkable.
"I hear a lot of noises from over there," he said.
He walked over the hill separating his home from the station to see part of the roof missing on the enclosure, a 12,000 square foot building that holds seven compressor engines, he said.
The Lathrop station was sold to Williams by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. as part of a deal announced in 2010 that also included a second compressor station and 75 miles of the natural gas drilling company's gathering pipelines.
Williams recently completed a 34-mile high-pressure pipeline from the Lathrop station to the interstate Transco pipeline in Dallas Township.
The connection and metering station is about half a mile from the Dallas district schools.
Dallas Township supervisor Liz Martin said gas has been flowing through the pipeline for some time.
"We're watching and waiting very carefully. We want to make sure there's not a surge of gas heading our way," she said.
Martin said Dallas Township emergency management coordinator Alan Pugh is monitoring the situation and keeping the Dallas School District posted.
"It's hitting so close to home it's not even funny. I'm still shaking inside because it could easily have been here," she said
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