The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board told a congressional field hearing Monday in Charleston the aging line that ruptured and exploded in Sissonville in December is not an isolated problem in an antiquated gas transmission system.

The thickness of the exploding pipe had deteriorated to a dangerously thin level.

Deborah Hersman told U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin the entire gas transmission system is running on 50-year-old technology.

"These systems that have been set up to operate these pipelines are really operational systems, they are not leak-detection systems," Hersman said.

"These systems are not sophisticated. These are older systems based on operations," to move gas.

Hersman says the Sissonville explosion had the potential to be incredibly tragic and could have gone on for hours if it hadn't happened at a time when four field technicians from Columbia Gas were on site at the Lanham pump station to shut off the valves.

"In an area like West Virginia, this situation could have been very different if it had been in the middle of the night, during rush hour, or if there were people on I-77," Hersman testified.

"What we see is a lack of recognition the pipeline leaked," Hersman said.

A number of Sissonville residents have not returned to their property following the explosion.

See related story CORRODED 20" SISSONVILLE GAS LINE THAT EXPLODED WAS OLD - Company Gave Wrong Information, 70% Of Line Density Gone

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