Gas leak disrupts downtown traffic

Dec. 10, 2012 @ 05:06 PM

A gas leak at the Rolling Hills construction site near downtown Durham Monday afternoon caused the shutdown of two short sections of major roads as crews attempted to repair the leak.

Durham firefighters were called to the scene about 2:15 p.m. after construction workers who were excavating the property near the top of the hill hit an unmarked six-inch gas main, said Battalion Chief Andy Sannipoli. That forced the closure of South Roxboro Street between East Lakewood Avenue and the entrance to Heritage Square Shopping Center and the closure of South Roxboro Street between East Lakewood and East Enterprise Street.

Firefighters stood by in case of a problem, but Sannipoli said there wasn’t much danger. Three houses across South Roxboro Street from the site were evacuated while crews worked to patch the leak.

“We took readings throughout the entire area and we didn’t find any danger to health or fire hazard,” Sannipoli said.

The smell of the additive that is added to natural gas permeated the area and wafted blocks away, alarming people there, Sannipoli said. Natural gas is odorless, so the additive makes it possible to smell it if there is a gas leak, he said.

People several blocks away c were calling in report the smell of gas, he said.

“It’s just annoying,” he said of the smell.

In the trench area where the gas line was cut, the gas and oxygen mixture is too rich to explode because there’s not enough oxygen, Sannipoli said.

If the crews were unable to patch the leak, they would have had to shut the gas line down and repair it, which would take more than a few hours to repair, Sannipoli said.

Traffic entering the area was directed to travel around the construction site by taking the service road next to the Durham Freeway to Fayetteville Street.