Crews check out report of gas leak in Allentown

Author: , Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published: Jun 25 2013 10:44:32 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 25 2013 10:42:26 PM EDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Tuesday night, crews were still working to repair a gas leak that shut down Emaus Avenue in Allentown for more than 12 hours. Meantime, Mayor Ed Pawlowski blasted UGI Utilities and its subcontractor over yet another gas-related accident in the city.

As of 10 p.m., Emaus Avenue was still closed between 12th Street and 26th streets.

While crews methodically worked to reach and repair the broken gas pipe, Allen Fedol spent all day watching the home authorities wouldn't let him come back to.

"We haven't heard one thing from anybody about anything," he said, "Nothing, where to go, what to do."

A sub-contractor working for UGI ruptured a gas line in the 2300 block of West Emaus just before 10 a.m.

"They mistakenly hit the pipe, releasing the gas in the atmosphere," said Allentown Fire Capt. John Christopher. "As a precaution, we went in all the structures to check the basement to make sure there's no gas leaking past the water line or anything. We got no reading in any of the structures."

An AETNA complex was evacuated, along with most of a small shopping center at 26th and Emaus, as well as Camelot for Children, a child care center. No kids were inside at the time.

"We heard a loud noise coming from the construction front," said assistant director Cassie Kemmerer. "We looked out the window and saw quite a few of the workers running around."

Crews had to dig up the broken line and physically cap the gas spewing out. That prompted an angry response from Pawlowski, a vocal critic of UGI.

"Although it is early in any investigation, this appears to be another instance where there are not enough shutoff valves in the system," the mayor said in a statement.

UGI insisted Tuesday that it isolated the leak quickly.

Meantime, we've also learned the sub-contractor responsible for Tuesday's accident was also connected to an explosion last January on North Fulton Street. Four people were hospitalized. In that case, workers from sub-contractor Great Western Services were installing a new pipe, but the state investigated whether they were adequately trained.

Six years earlier, after another explosion on Mowawk Street, the state Public Utilities Commission cited UGI for not adequately training sub-contractors.

"I would hope that UGI and the PUC will address this issue with the contractor before another major tragedy occurs within the city," Pawlowski said.

The utility issued this written response Tuesday night: "UGI knows it is our responsibility to safely deliver natural gas. We take that responsibility seriously. UGI has already commenced a investigation of the circumstances of this incident. We have contacted the PUC and will work closely with them to fully investigate this incident and continue to ensure the safe delivery of gas to our customers."