Evacuation order over after pipeline rupture in Berrien County


After a long day of waiting, just moments ago people started allowing 500 people from rural Berrien County, evacuated after a gas pipeline ruptured, back into their homes.

The line is owned by Trans Canada and runs from Canada to Texas.

People waited 10 to 12 hours to return home and police say they have conducted air quality testing in the area and so far everything is coming back okay.

But for now, more than 500 people who were evacuated have been allowed to return home.

Vic Rogers, a farmer that lives just a quarter mile from where the blast occurred, says he heard a loud noise around 2 a.m. and came outside to see a geyser of mud and dirt 200 feet in the area.

The area around the pipeline is now swampy.

Rogers says Trans Canada, the company that owns the pipeline, has advised him that his three acres of potatoes around the explosion may be contaminated and should not be harvested.

Rogers says he's lived on this farm his entire life and he recalls as a child similar pipeline explosion some 40 years ago, when the company was putting in a second gas line.

He says back then the walls of his home were cracked.

A representative from Trans Canada says the line that broke was a large main, 24 to 30 inches in diameter.

The spokesperson says soon, after the system indicated a drop in pressure, the automatic valves started to shut both sides of the line.

The company does not know what caused the rupture and they say a thorough investigation will be conducted. Results could take weeks if not months.

In the meantime, people are worried about clean-up and about the quality of the water and soil.

1 p.m. UPDATE: The Berrien Co. Sheriff's Office tells WSBT that the evacuation order is still in place, pending an all-clear on air quality checks.

The leak has been isolated, according to police. The area outside a 1-mile radius centered on the leak has clean air. Crews are working inward, and so far the areas they have tested within that 1-mile radius have also tested clean.

They want to clear the entire area before they let anyone back in. There is no word on when that will happen. Officials ask that residents be patient as crews work.

The Red Cross is setting up a shelter at Mason's Lodge, 3661 E. Napier Ave which is near Napier and Blue Creek Rd. Snacks and water are available for evacuees.

9 a.m. UPDATE: Crews have capped a massive leak after a natural gas transmission line blew in the 100 block of North Blue Creek Road in Benton Charter Township this morning. That is in Berrien County.

Officers, fire fighters and other emergency personnel went door to door in the middle of the night to warn people they should leave the area.

If you live within a mile of the leak, police say evacuations are still in place and are MANDATORY.

About 520 people have been evacuated. Officials tell us they know a few stayed behind.

The pipeline reportedly carries gas from southern states to the Midwest.

Many people called into our newsroom claiming they could hear the leak from at least a mile away.

Our reporter on scene says the noise was like a freight train when she first arrived, but it went silent after being capped.

The following release was issued by TransCanada, which owns the line:

"TransCanada is responding to a reported gas leak on the ANR Pipeline between Bridgman and Hamilton compressor stations in Benton Harbor, Michigan. TransCanada's automatic closures properly isolated the impacted section of the line. The safety of the public, TransCanada employees and the environment is a top priority at TransCanada."The Berrien County Sheriff's Department made the decision to issue a voluntary evacuation within a one mile radius of the reported incident. We appreciate the cooperation of residents and encourage people to follow instructions from first responders so that we maintain a safe work area."TransCanada has notified the appropriate regulatory agencies, including the National Response Center and US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and is investigating the leak.""The cause of this event, as well as customer impact, has not been determined at this time."ANR Pipeline reportedly delivers natural gas from Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma to the Midwest and Great Lakes region.

The Berrien County Sheriff's Office issued this release around 6 a.m.:

"At approximately 2am on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 a natural gas line affiliated with TransCanada, leaked at/near the 100 block of North Blue Creek Rd, in Benton Twp. Cause of the leak is currently unknown. Emergency responders, consisting of local police (Benton Twp), County Deputies and Benton Twp Fire Personnel assisted with evacuating residents within one (1) mile radius of the gas line leak. Vehicular traffic was also re-routed away from this area. No known injuries have been reported at the time of this release and authorities are conducting air monitoring. TransCanada pipeline representatives were working on shutting off and/or re-routing the natural gas flow from this leaking gas line."

"Road blocks have been established at the following locations:Territorial Rd & Benton Center RdHillandale Rd & Empire AveBenton Center Rd at Empire AveHighland Ave & PaulHighland Ave & I-94 OverpassBlue Creek Rd & Empire AveTerritorial Rd & Forest PointBritain Ave & Hillandale RdBritain Ave & O'Brien Drive"

Officials are monitoring air quality.

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