SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Columbia Gas Company crews have traced the source of a gas leak that prompted the evacuation of an apartment building on State Street Wednesday night, during frigid temperatures. Columbia Gas Spokeswoman Andrea Lupi told 22News that the leak was actually in an underground pipe two blocks away on Hancock Street.Springfield Fire officials ordered the evacuation of everyone inside 691-693 State Street a little after 4 p.m. Wednesday. Firefighters were called to the building because of residents’ complaints of an odor of natural gas.
Springfield Fire Department spokesman Denis Leger told 22News when crews deployed their detection tools, their meters recorded gas levels “right off the charts,” resulting in everyone being ordered out of the building, and the temporary closure of State Street in the upper 600 block.A PVTA van was parked nearby to keep the evacuated residents warm.
Columbia’s Andrea Lupi told 22News that the residents were allowed back inside the building just before 6:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Lupi said repair crews traced the source of the leak to Hancock Street, but they didn’t know the exact location. She anticipated the repair crews would be on-site until 4:00 a.m. Thursday, at least.
She blamed the leak on 80-plus year old cast-iron pipes buried below the streets of Springfield. Lupi said extreme cold cracks and ruptures these pipes.
“Those cast-iron pipes have been in the ground since World War II,” Lupi added.
She went on to tell 22News that these pipes are in the process of being systematically replaced as part of an infrastructure overhaul taking place over a 20-year period.
Lupi said the Baystate Gas “Modernization Program” has been replacing about 45 miles of cast-iron pipe in Massachusetts every year since about 2012.
Lupi also pointed out that the company was taking precautions to protect the repair crews from the extreme cold and harsh elements.
“We’re making sure they’re hydrated and taking frequent breaks,” Lupi told 22News. “They are provided adequate protective clothing to keep them warm and safe.”