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Mystery explosion, exposed gas pipelines and heavy construction reported in Burrillville



We need the Governor to stop Enrbridge’s construction now,” said Martley. “It’s shameful that Enbridge is trying to sneak this project in amid the COVID-19 crisis without obtaining any permits. They need to be held accountable.

[UPDATE: Enbridge responded, see below.]

According to a press release from the Fang Collective, residents on Wallum Lake Road in Burrillville, Rhode Island watched as Enbridge, which maintains a fracked gas pipeline in the area, constructed a “large twenty foot wide road being installed through wetlands” using “heavy machinery, ten front-loaders, numerous other types of large construction equipment, along with twenty five employee vehicles.”

Next came the explosion.

“We heard a large explosion sound, a big boom. It shook my house. My neighbors and I all ran outside to see what had happened,” said Kathy Martley, a local activist with Burrillville BASE.

[All pictures and video this post (c)2020 Fang Collective]

When Martley first reported the explosion to UpriseRI, we reached out to both the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and to Burrillville Town Administrator Michael Wood.

“On Monday, we received a call asking if DEM was aware of a potential explosion at the Algonquin Compressor Station,” responded DEM Deputy Director Terry Grey. “It was referred to our emergency response office, and one of the staff in that office followed up on the complaint by calling the town and speaking with Mike Wood about it. Mr Wood subsequently contacted the facility and was told that that there was no explosion and that the heavy equipment that is on site is there for regularly scheduled work on the pipeline. We were also told that the Burrillville Police Department had investigated the noise complaint as well.

“On Tuesday, our staff person followed up by contacting the facility directly. The facility reaffirmed that there was not explosion, the facility did not have any type of release, and that the loud noise was not from his facility.”

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Administrator Wood wrote that, “we have reports from residents of a loud noise, possibly an explosion, proximate to Enbridge last weekend. We (town) can’t confirm the incident and the company says they have no record of such an event on their site or the pipeline. RIDEM is investigating and I haven’t heard back from them. Outside of this, I don’t have any additional information.”

The construction is happening on Enbridge’s “Algonquin” fracked-gas pipeline in Burrillville directly off of Wallum Lake Road, a few hundred feet from Enbridge’s massive compressor station facility. Residents obtained photographs and video of the construction site that show the extent of the project. Large open pits with pipeline exposed, two temporary bridges over a wetland and a stream, and a temporary road that stretches for at least a half mile.

According to the Fang Collective, DEM has issued no permits for any construction in the area. Kathy Martley wants Governor Gina Raimondo to take immediate action.

“We need the Governor to stop Enrbridge’s construction now,” said Martley. “It’s shameful that Enbridge is trying to sneak this project in amid the COVID-19 crisis without obtaining any permits. They need to be held accountable.”

Responding to the photos and video, Gail Mastrati, Assistant to the Director at DEM responded that, “DEM’s emergency response team worked with the Town to investigate reports of an explosion at the site earlier this week. After discussions with both town officials and company representatives, no evidence of an explosion was found. We have had further discussions and complaints from residents about work going on at the site without appropriate permits. Those allegations are currently under investigation.”

“As part of our commitment to safe and reliable operations, Algonquin Gas Transmission is conducting routine maintenance work near our Burrillville Compressor Station in Rhode Island, in accordance with applicable regulations,” said Max Bergeron, speaking on behalf of Enbridge.

Burrillville BASE is a grassroots community group that originally formed to oppose the compressor station expansion project. BASE then became one of the first groups to oppose Invenergy’s power plant. Enbridge is a multinational fossil fuel corporation based in Canada.

Enbridge’s compressor station in Burrillville has been a hotly contested site. Starting in 2014, groups from across the region protested the expansion of the compressor station, which at the time was owned by Spectra Energy. Several people were even arrested as part of civil disobedience protests at the site. In 2015 Invenergy proposed a $1 billion fossil fuel power plant that would be built adjacent to the compressor station. A statewide movement opposing the plant ultimately led to the project being rejected by the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board last year.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.