Investigation into Port Richmond explosion remains a mystery

Investigation into Port Richmond explosion remains a mystery

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is overseeing PGW’s portion of Sunday’s investigation into the blast, and said in a statement Wednesday that the full investigation could take “up to a year or more.”

At Wednesday’s public meeting, officials stressed that they didn’t have all the answers. However, they said the investigation found no evidence of illegal activity and that since no leaks in the gas lines had been found, residents should feel safe in their homes.

Despite this, several local residents have expressed frustration with the restoration of utilities and concerns about damage to their homes.

Elliott Eiseman’s home on the 3500 block of Miller Street was still standing after the explosion that leveled two other homes, but later had to be demolished. (Emma Lee/WHY)

“I saw beams being moved. The ceiling cracked all around our house,” said Ron Tini. “Not one person has ever asked to come inside to inspect. Still four [city officials] said up here everyone is safe in their own home.”

Interior inspections are available upon request, said L&I’s Stephen Gallagher. He said the department cleared structures that were determined not to be at risk of collapse based on an outside inspection.

City officials removed four to six dumpsters full of debris from Miller Street this week to begin the investigation, said Dennis Merrigan with the city’s Fire Marshal.

Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Merrigan describes the fire department’s response to the Port Richmond explosion to a group of about 200 residents at the Columbia Social Club. (Emma Lee/WHY)

On the lots where two-story brick row houses were demolished, only rubble and tattered appliances were left behind on Wednesday. Many of the remaining homes had planks covering windows that were blown away by the blast.

Ryan Wynne was asleep on his couch when the explosion happened half a block away.

“You heard people screaming from under the pile to help,” he recalled as he stood on his front steps on Wednesday.

His rear windows were “loosened,” he said, and his ceiling was cracked. He has no plans to make an insurance claim while the cause of the explosion is still under investigation. In the meantime, he rebuilds on his own.

“We were lucky,” Wynne said. “But the people down there… It’s just leveled to the ground. So I’m sure they could use some support.”

Port Richmond residents are lining up outside the Columbia Social Club, where city officials offered information and advice after an explosion at the 3500 block of Miller Street that destroyed three homes and damaged many others. (Emma Lee/WHY)

City officials are advising people whose homes have been damaged to contact their home insurance, take photos of damage before cleaning, and keep receipts for any related expenses.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, PGW may also assert claims for damages. Meanwhile, the city’s disaster management agency is collecting information about the extent of the damage via an online survey and has published a resource list.

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