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Gas line break clears about 70 households, closes Hagerstown streets

September 09, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- About 70 households were evacuated, and several Hagerstown streets were closed Monday morning after a work crew ruptured a gas line.

The crew from Columbia Gas hit the medium-pressure gas line at the corner of Burhans Boulevard and Antietam Street at about 10 a.m. Neighbors said they heard a loud hissing sound that was followed by a foul odor.

Crews stopped the leak about noon, when streets reopened and residents returned to their homes.

Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Randy Myers said firefighters were called to the intersection for a report of a gas leak Sunday night, and Columbia Gas crews arrived Monday morning to repair it.

Leslie Orbin, spokeswoman for Columbia Gas, said workers were repairing the existing leak when they struck the medium-pressure gas line on which they were working.

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Cynthia Chambers, of 19 S. Burhans Blvd., said she returned home from the store and heard a loud hissing sound and saw something "shooting out of the ground." That was followed by a foul odor and an order from emergency personnel to evacuate from her home.

Orbin said that natural gas is odorless, colorless and not toxic. She said Columbia Gas adds a substance called "mercaptan" to the natural gas before it is delivered to homes. That substance causes the gas to smell like rotten eggs, she said.

"It's exactly for that reason, so people can detect a leak," Orbin said.

Myers said that natural gas is highly flammable, which is why residents were evacuated.

Chambers and her sister, brother and dog waited until about noon before returning to their homes. They waited in the nearby Hagerstown Police Department parking lot.

Several nearby streets were closed while Columbia Gas crews repaired the line, including the 100 block of South Burhans Boulevard, the 400 block of West Antietam Street and the 400 block of West Washington Street.

Hagerstown Police were at the scene, and Myers said Washington County Emergency Services and the Washington County Sheriff's Department also assisted.


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