North Texas Daily

Series of gas-leak events explained

Series of gas-leak events explained

Series of gas-leak events explained
November 25
08:38 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

The string of four gas leaks over the past two months on campus has been a result of bad luck, poor communication and aged equipment.

At two separate points in October, crews replacing a water pipe under Highland Street for the city of Denton hit gas lines, leaking gas into the air over campus.

Then, in November, corrosion from an old gas line under Kerr Hall resulted in the residence hall losing hot water for a day and a half. While repairing the corroded gas line, crews nicked another part of the line two days later. This leak forced residents to evacuate for a few hours and left them without hot water until late that night.

On both occasions, the cafeteria did not reopen, leaving students on meal plans without food after 9 p.m.

Denton’s manager of water deployment, Tim Fisher, said the hits were due to inaccurate utility marking. The city is replacing the water line under Highland Street from North Texas Boulevard all the way to Welch. Fisher said to do that in a reasonable amount of time, crews need to dig quickly and rely on utility companies to mark the streets above their utility lines.

“You know you have a facility crossing, so you have to slow down your excavation rate, and maybe digging or hand probing,” he said. “But you can’t do that for a seven-block stretch, so you rely on the utility locations.”

Fisher said one gas line was hit 43 feet away from where it was marked, and the other was hit 47 feet away. Fisher said crews were told to slow down excavation after the second incident, which is why there hasn’t been another one since. The project, which was initially scheduled to finish Dec. 20, is likely to wrap up in mid-January.

The gas lines are owned and operated by Atmos Energy. Atmos’ public affairs representative for the Denton area, John Manganilla, said Atmos hires an outside agency to detect utilities.

At Kerr, UNT facilities manager Dave Reynolds said the initial incident was caused by corrosion in an existing gas line. Reynolds said the line was supposed to last 50 years, but  was in its mid-40s when it gave out. UNT’s contractor hit the line while trying to repair it two days later.

Atmos Energy does not own the part of the line that initially broke, but they do own the part of the line that was hit and were on-hand for the repairs.

While restoring energy to the repaired line, workers noticed a problem with the valve farther south on Eagle Street, Manganilla said. Workers shut gas down again so they could replace the valve, eventually sending a truck to feed gas directly into the line they were just working on so Kerr could keep gas power.

Reynolds was hired by UNT in September, but brings with him a 30-year career in facilities management. He said the series of events at Kerr Hall is something he’s never experienced before.

“I’ve seen gas lines hit in construction projects, I’ve seen gas lines age out,” he said while Atmos was repairing the valve. “I don’t think I’ve seen one like the chain we’ve had over the last few days at Kerr. That would be a first.”

Manganilla said Atmos was able to maintain service to all locations, Kerr aside, throughout these incidents because of a dual-feed system which allows them to bypass breaks.

He said incidents will affect Atmos’ business if they continue. Manganilla said an investigation goes into every incident, but they haven’t been able to make any headway with the Highland Street construction because they’ve been unable to get in touch with the city’s water department.

Feature photo: Atmos Energy crew work to repair a gas leak behind Kerr Hall on Nov. 14. Photo by Harris Buchanan / Staff Photographer.

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