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Accord reached in Odessa explosion

Avista would pay $200,000

Avista Corp. filed a settlement agreement Friday with Washington state regulators that would, if approved, resolve all issues stemming from a December 2008 natural gas explosion and fire that injured two people and damaged a garage in Odessa, Wash.

As part of the agreement, Avista would pay a $200,000 fine. The utility has reached separate settlements with the two people injured by the explosion in the small farming community about 75 miles southwest of Spokane.

Avista officials negotiated the agreement with staff at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. The agreement will be reviewed by the three-member commission, which can accept or reject it.

State regulators initially recommended fines in excess of $1 million.

The explosion was caused by a leak in a section of 2-inch gas distribution pipe. Investigators determined that the plastic pipe was improperly embedded in a rock material, causing the line to crack.

A lit cigarette held by Roger Reyes inside the garage of his parents’ home ignited the gas. He was taken to the burn center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Cassandra McClure also was injured by the explosion.

The proposed settlement calls for additional education for city, county and state employees and third-party contractors responsible for excavations near similar pipe to reduce the risk of future explosions. Avista would also perform annual leak surveys on the plastic pipe that was installed in utility’s distribution system before 1987. The plastic pipe that cracked in Odessa was installed in 1981. 

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