DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Atmos Energy announced early this morning that they are shutting down the natural gas system in an area of Dallas where a house explosion, several fires and gas leaks have occurred.
Officials say the thousands of residents in the area will not be evacuated, but will be without natural gas service for approximately three weeks.
Atmos Mid-Tex Division President John Paris said, "Over the last 24 hours, as we continued to try and stabilize this system, we reached the conclusion…. from a performance standpoint we reached the conclusion late yesterday afternoon and early last evening that we would take the step of shutting down this system."
The homes affected are in the area roughly bound by Walnut Hill to the north, Webb Chapel to the west, near Northwest Highway to the south and Lakemont Drive to the east.
Officials say crews will be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week until replacement and repair work is complete.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said, "Older steel pipe that is deteriorating... apparently it appears preliminarily because of a formation shift brought about by heavy rains, will be replaced by state-of-the-art, new, PVC-type pipe that is more forgiving in situations like this where there is movement."
The shutdown, starting around noon today, will affect the natural gas service for approximately 2,800 homes, apartments and businesses. Once the service is shut off Paris said, "We will immediately begin a process, with more than 120 contract crews, to begin to replace every distribution main in the area, every service line in the area [and] we'll put all new gas meters in."
Atmos Senior Vice President Kevin Akers explained that the company hired a geotechnical engineer who found irregular formations in the Marsh Lane area. "With the extended rain that we've had, the amount of rain, runoff and how that flows underground, causes certain [parts] of those formations to expand up and put pressure on our system thus causing leakage," he said.
Officials with Atmos said workers will test every natural gas line in the yards of customers and if a leak is found the line will be replace free of charge.
All natural gas piping going into residences and businesses will also be tested and if a leak or any problems are found plumbers will be brought in, at the expense of Atmos, to make the necessary repairs. Home appliances will also be inspected and repaired if necessary.
Paris said, "We know we've inconvenienced customers but we are committed to replacing the entire system. We'll be bring service back in as quickly as possible, but it may take up to three weeks to complete the entire project."
There are two schools in the area where service will be cut off. One of those will not be affected, but the other -- Stephen C. Foster Elementary School -- will be hooked up to compressed natural gas and will continue to operate normally.
Officials say they will continue to survey and look for natural gas issues beyond the area that has been outlined to be shutdown.
At the morning press conference Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said, "We are devoting every resource necessary to support Atmos. We have opened up our Emergency Operations Center to ensure that we can provide all the assistance that they need to get them through this particular issue."
Before this announcement hundreds of people had already been displaced and several roads in the area shutdown as Atmos crews dug up pipelines and worked to try and find the cause of the recent natural gas problems.
Residents have been on edge since a house explosion last week, that killed 12-year-old Linda Rogers, and several fires and gas leaks forced evacuations in the neighborhood not far from Dallas Love Field Airport.
Anyoe needing more information about the gas shutoff can contact Atmos at 972-964-4191 or get information about their alerts online.
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