Gas trapped in soil following leak forces evacuations in Georgetown


    Dozens of homes and business in Georgetown have been evacuated following a natural gas leak on February 20th. (CBS Austin)

    Dozens of homes and business in Georgetown have been evacuated following a natural gas leak on February 20th.

    According to a spokesperson from Atmos Energy, the area’s natural gas distribution company, the initial leak has been fixed but gas remains trapped in the soil, threatening nearby buildings.

    As of Tuesday, 61 businesses and 26 residences near Williams Drive and River Bend have been evacuated.

    Sunday, Peter Helfrich was told to pack up and leave his home for an indeterminate amount of time because of the trapped gas. “We threw pretty much our entire wardrobe in bags and just ripped out of there,” says Helfrich.

    Crews have been working near Helfrich’s house for almost two weeks digging holes and ventilating the soil to extract the trapped gas.

    In a statement, Atmos Energy said crews are surveying the area with mobile leak detectors and will continue system monitoring until the evacuations are lifted. The company says in addition to ventilating the soil, they’re also working to proactively identify and repair other pipes in the area.

    Homeowners who live nearby but haven’t been evacuated say they’re fearful they too may have to leave their homes.

    Atmos Energy has not said if they anticipate more evacuations or when the current orders will be lifted. Affected Georgetown residents and businesses can contact Atmos Energy customer service line at 888-992-8667. Representatives are also available from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express, 431 N. Interstate 35, to speak directly with affected residents and business owners.

    The Railroad Commission of Texas oversees the gas industry. A spokesperson tells CBS Austin the RRC is making sure Atmos Energy complies with rules to fix the problem. The agency will also determine if any rules were broken that lead to the initial gas leak.

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