Concern Over String of Gas Leaks

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

June 8, 2006

"We were getting some gas readings inside the McCue Center and odors of gas in U-Hall in the cage," said Dep. Chief Britt Grimm, of the Charlottesville Fire Department.

That is what the scene was like just two days ago. A construction company struck a four inch gas main while they were digging with a backhoe, right on UVa grounds. It forced students and faculty to evacuate the building for fear of an explosion.

"We don't frequently see gas lines of that size that we run into problems with," said Dep. Chief Grimm.

Again gas leaked from a main just two weeks earlier. This time it happened in a Charlottesville neighborhood.

Utility crews mis-marked a gas line and the construction crew busted the pipe while digging. Several neighboring homes were evacuated while fire crews checked out the area.

"Natural gas is lighter than air and it can go into houses either underground or above ground," said Battalion Chief Peter Carpenter, of the Charlottesville Fire Department.

In both instances fire crews were able to contain the flammable gas and no one was hurt. Fire officials said they are expecting these types of leaks will happen a lot over the next couple of months.

"It's summer time and this is the time when most construction occurs," said Battalion Chief Carpenter.

Fire officials are warning residents to be on the look out for a strong rotten egg smelling odors when they're doing any digging.

"This is an odorant that the gas company adds to natural gas because in it's normal state it is odorless and tasteless so they add an odorant so you can detect it by nose," said Carpenter.

It will also help fire crews find the source of the leak before it has time to cause any damage.

Fire officials said if a leak is bigger than one inch, all it takes is something as small as a burning cigarette to cause an explosion.

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