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NiSource assisting victims of Sissonville pipeline explosion

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Shirley McMillion and her husband, D.J., are still waiting on the check from NiSource Inc. that they will use to purchase a new home.

The McMillions' home was one of three destroyed when a 20-inch gas transmission line exploded in Sissonville on Dec. 11. Since that day, the family has been staying in a hotel off the Mink Shoals exit of Interstate 79.

"We're preparing to buy a house," Shirley McMillion said. "We're literally waiting on our check from the gas company so we can close on the house."

She wouldn't say how much her family would receive from the company, nor would NiSource Communications Manager Chevalier Mayes comment on how much people affected by the blast would receive.

McMillion did say her family got a little more than half the amount they requested.

"We got enough to pay off our old house, buy a new house, replace our vehicles and have a little bit left over," she said.

The gas company is also continuing to pay the hotel bill for the families who were displaced by the explosion. 

McMillion plans to buy a home about 3 miles from the house where she lived for seven years.

And although McMillion and her husband have decided to remain in the area where she has spent her entire life, she is making sure at least one thing about her new house is different.

"We checked to make sure this new house wasn't anywhere near a gas line," McMillion said. "I don't like to dwell on it, but if it happened once, it can happen again."

NiSource, which owns Columbia Gas Transmission, is offering resources to help those affected by the December explosion that leveled several homes, damaged others, and scorched a section of Interstate 77, Mayes said.

The company has provided some funds to help those affected by the explosion purchase new homes or rebuild those damaged during the incident, Mayes said. She would not provide a total amount.

"We can't provide a total since we're still actively working with some of the residents," she said.

No matter how much money is provided to the McMillions, some things simply cannot be replaced, McMillion said. For example, she had a crystal fruit bowl and crystal candlesticks that were passed down to her by her grandmother.

"Even if we found items that looked the same, they wouldn't have the same sentimental value," she said.

One item, a ceramic piggybank that belonged to her mother, did survive the blast.

"It was in an outbuilding with some of my daughter's stuff that was in storage," she said. "It was just sitting in some ashes."

As for pictures of loved ones, McMillion has been able to obtain most of what was lost by contacting other family members for copies, she said.     

NiSource is working with the American Red Cross to offer counseling to people suffering from anxiety related to the explosion, Mayes said.

McMillion tries not to think about the incident. She admitted she has good days and bad.

"There are days that it's all I can do to keep from crying," she said. "But I try to keep a positive attitude and put this all behind me.

"And I feel like getting into another house will be the first step."

The American Red Cross worked with 13 families, including 34 individuals, affected by the explosion, said Cheryl Ingraham, regional emergency services director for the West Virginia region.

Of those people, 13 were children, one was elderly and one had special needs, she said in an email.

As of Friday, only three families still were staying in hotels.

"Others have found alternative rental housing, have returned home or have relocated," she said.        

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

 


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