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NiSource helping Sissonville pipeline blast victims buy, repair homes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- NiSource Inc. is helping residents affected by a pipeline explosion in Sissonville buy new homes or repair homes that were damaged.According to published reports, NiSource Inc. spokeswoman Chevalier Mayes said that the company cannot provide a total amount of the funding because it is still working with some residents.A 20-inch line owned by NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission ruptured on Dec. 11, triggering a massive fire that cooked Interstate 77. The explosion destroyed four homes and damaged several others but there were no serious injuries.Shirley McMillion and her family plan to buy a new house, once they receive a check from NiSource. She would not say how much her family will receive."We got enough to pay off our old house, buy a new house, replace our vehicles and have a little bit left over," she told the newspaper.McMillion said she and husband checked to make sure that their new house, which is about 3 miles from their old house, is not near a gas line."I don't like to dwell on it, but if it happened once, it can happen again," she said."There are days that it's all I can do to keep from crying," McMillion 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."McMillion and her family have been staying a hotel since the explosion. NiSource is paying the hotel bills for families who were displaced by the explosion.As of Friday, three families were still staying at hotels. The others found other rental housing, returned home or relocated, said Cheryl Ingraham, regional emergency services director for the American Red Cross' West Virginia region.NiSource is working with the American Red Cross to provide counseling to people affected by the explosion.On Jan. 28, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee will hold a field hearing in Charleston to examine pipeline safety.The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the explosion, has said the line showed signs of external corrosion and had thinned to about one-third of the recommended thickness in some spots. The Office of Pipeline Safety said in a preliminary report that "general wall thinning is a major factor in the cause of the failure." 
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