Natural gas plant remains shut down after lightning strike



CHARTIERS, Pa. - The owners of a Marcellus Shale gas refinery in Washington County say it will remain closed until inspectors can assess the damage caused by a lightning strike that caused a small fire and prompted nearby residents to be evacuated.

The Markwest Energy Partners facility in Chartiers Township was struck about 6 p.m. Wednesday, causing a small fire.

Witnesses and Washington County 911 officials said a smell of natural gas and a vapor cloud were reported, which prompted officials to evacuate dozens of residents who lived within two miles of the plant.

MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale said no employees were injured, although about a dozen were inside at the time of the strike.

Those workers said they felt the jolt, heard the deafening sound and immediately went into evacuation mode.

The evacuation order was lifted about 9:30 p.m., though McHale said the plant will remain closed until an inspection confirms the plant is safe.

“The local first responders did a tremendous job communicating to residents and evacuating,” McHale said.

The plant is located near Route 519, about 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.