116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When Fire Chief Jerry Briggs was called to respond to an explosion last February in Yazoo County, Miss., he didn’t know what caused the blast.
Was it natural gas? Chlorine?
Briggs and his team put on oxygen tanks and got on a Utility Terrain Vehicle and rode down a gravel road looking for people who might have been caught in the cloud. First, they found an empty car stranded on the road, its headlights on and door open.
“We continued down the gravel road and our UTV started sputtering and dying,” Briggs said in a webinar last week hosted by Food & Water Watch and the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter, which opposes plans for three CO2 pipelines proposed in Iowa.
Briggs and his team found another car, this one with three people inside. All were passed out, but the car windows were rolled up and the doors were locked.
“We started breaking glass. The car was still in drive, so we had to secure the vehicle. We stacked all three of them in the back and headed back out. We go them back to the ambulances. We went back and met up with some other guys and pulled 14 to 15 other people out who were conscious, but still in the plume.”
Emergency responders later learned a carbon dioxide pipeline had burst, causing the gas to seep out into a valley. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, which causes it to stay close to the ground where it can asphyxiate people and cause car engines to stop because there’s not enough oxygen.
More than 300 people were evacuated from their homes and 45 were sent to two area hospitals, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
DeEmmeris Burns was one of the men Briggs rescued that night. He’d been driving home from fishing with some friends when they heard a boom, he said during the webinar.
“My cousin said, ‘My car cut out!’,” Burns said. “Immediately after that, we cut out. And we stayed under from 7 until 11.”
Burns, a lumber worker, said he’s suffered from memory loss and other trauma from the incident. He and the other men in the car have filed a lawsuit in Texas, where Denbury Resources, the pipeline operator, is located, journalist Dan Zegart said in the webinar.
Denbury uses the CO2 in that pipeline for enhanced oil recovery, which involves injecting the liquefied gas into underground rock formations to collect more oil.
Zegart, who reported on the Mississippi CO2 pipeline explosion for the HuffPost, said there are few resources set aside for people injured or sickened by pipeline explosions and spills.
As part of the permitting process, state regulators can require companies to get insurance for these types of emergencies, the Pipeline Safety Trust reported.
The Iowa Utilities Board required the Dakota Access Pipeline to have at least $25 million in liability insurance to protect Iowans from leaks and spills from an oil pipeline across the state, the Des Moines Register reported in 2017.
Comments: (319) 339-3157; email@example.com