Quick response, teamwork prevented catastrophic result
It appears boring crew not at fault for natural gas leak
CLINTON — Help from multiple emergency departments and teamwork likely prevented a catastrophic event on Feb. 13 after contractors accidently bored through a natural gas line and sewer line simultaneously.
A company doing work in the city accidentally bored through the two lines late afternoon on Monday, Feb. 13. Rather than the gas escaping through the ground and into the air, it entered the punctured sewer line and began entering homes in the area, said city commissioner Dan Ballenger.
“It had the potential of leveling that corner of town,” Ballenger said during Tuesday’s city council meeting. “That’s how bad it was.”
He said police, fire, EMS, EMA, the school district and street department workers all played roles in evacuating residents and preventing a major mishap.
Ballenger said the city’s mutual aid fire departments responded quickly, and within a short time, an area of about 20 square blocks was evacuated.
“We had some really bad explosive levels in every house,” he said.
Five departments with about 30 firefighters responded to the scene originating near the intersection of W. Adams and S. Elm streets. DeWitt County EMS helped evacuate residents who were unable under their own power, said Clinton Fire Chief Stephen Page. T
he Clinton School District provided a bus to help with the evacuation and made school facilities available for evacuees. Deputies from the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office help Clinton Police manage traffic in the area. City works administrator Steve Lobb provided barricades and sewer line maps, “so we could track where the gas could potentially go,” Page said.
“The Methodist Church also opened as a shelter for us,” Page added.
Firefighters carried more than 20 gas meters to check natural gas levels, including inside homes. Fire departments use the meters to check for natural gas, and they also can be used to check carbon monoxide levels.
Springfield and Mt. Zion fire departments provided special fans to help dissipate the natural gas.
Page said his department’s people were on the scene for at least seven hours. Clinton Fire had started that day with a major structure fire nearby at about 12:30 a.m.
It appears the boring crew bored in a spot that earlier had been marked as safe.
“We probably had some inadequate marking procedures,” Ballenger said. “We’re not putting the blame on anyone at this point.”
He said more investigation was needed.
“We need to figure it out to make sure we’re right,” Ballenger said.
He said the potential existed for an explosion that could have leveled that portion of town.