An underground utility boring company drilled through a four-inch gas line and the sewer line next to it yesterday afternoon on the city’s South Side, causing streets to be blocked off as gas company workers worked to remedy the situation.
The ensuing gas leak enabled natural gas to enter houses through sewer lines. The New Castle Fire Department was called at 1:28 p.m. to block streets while Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania turned off gas flow from Long Avenue to Electric Street.
Residents were evacuated from 13 houses on Hamilton Street. Lee Gierczynski of Columbia Gas said service was restored to all but two or three houses by about 5 p.m. The problems were confined to the 1300 block of the street.
New Castle fire chief David Joseph said the underground boring machine hit the gas line while tunneling underground through an alley off Hamilton Street.
The company is believed to have been contracted by Columbia Gas. The name of the company was not available.
He said the firemen and gas company workers were concerned due to the high natural gas readings.
“The ruptured line was close to a manhole,” Joseph said.
He said the firemen and gas company workers pulled up the manhole cover.
“The sewer was full of gas. You could actually see the gas vapor,” he said.
Joseph said sensor meters held by gas company employees “were going crazy alerting us to the high level of gas in the area.”
Joseph said Long Avenue was closed to keep cars from getting too near the 1300 block of Hamilton Street and Hamilton was closed to Electric Street.
“But someone managed to come out through an alley and almost drove into the open manhole,” he said.
Joseph said he believes that person might have been a Hamilton Street resident, not someone cutting across an alley from Pennsylvania Avenue.
Joseph said service was restored to all homes except 1308 and 1310 Hamilton Street by 5 p.m. and residents were allowed to return.
“We aired out the houses, opening doors and windows to enable the accumulated gas to dissipate,” Joseph said.