Natural Gas Leaks in Dallas County More Widespread: Report

An investigation by The Dallas Morning News found an increase in hazardous gas leaks repaired by Atmos Energy in the first half of 2018

In a neighborhood near Forest Lane and Midway Road in Dallas, orange construction cones still dot some streets in places where homeowners say Atmos Energy contractors have worked since March.

Dale Shover lives four miles from where 12-year-old Linda Rogers died in an explosion in February. A few weeks later, he came home one afternoon to find crews on his street and the strong smell of natural gas outside. He said he asked the workers on site if it's safe for him and two young children to be in the house. At first, workers told him they were safe. He said a few minutes later, the fire department showed up.

"Fire department says you need to get out now. In a panic, I grabbed my daughter out of the bathtub, got her dressed and ran out of the house," Shover said.

The evacuation lasted several hours.

Shover said communication from Atmos on the work done has been limited. He said workers told him a contractor, making a repair, had an accident which caused the evacuation he experienced. But Shover wants to know more about Atmos' plan in his neighborhood.

"I feel fairly safe. I would like to know what's going on though. We hadn't received any communication from Atmos to let us know, 'Here's where we're going to be doing work, here's the work we already did, here's why we did it," Shover said. "I've heard nothing. It would be nice to get some information."

Shover's neighborhood is among those identified as seeing a significant increase in hazardous gas leaks in the first half of the year -- according to The Dallas Morning News' analysis of natural gas leaks repaired by Atmos.

"We found a notable increase in these Grade 1 hazardous leaks in places like Preston Hollow, in Oak Cliff, in part of Irving," said Holly Hacker, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News.

Hacker is part of a team of journalists who sorted and mapped addresses provided by Atmos to the Texas Railroad Commission, reporting repaired leaks. Hacker said journalists focused in on hazardous or Grade 1 leaks caused by corrosion, leaking gaskets or other signs of an aging system.

Hacker said their research showed potentially widespread problems with wear and tear on the natural gas delivery system, outside of the neighborhoods evacuated when Linda Rogers died.

"Atmos has said it was this unexplained unusual confluence of really heavy rainfall, the geology of the area, the soil," Hacker said. "But as we've seen, as you go out in the larger part of northwest Dallas, when they look there they found a lot more leaks than they had before."

In an email response to NBC 5, Atmos said the increase in leaks can be explained by its additional monitoring with new and more sensitive technology.

"As would be expected, the result has been a higher number of found and repaired leaks, ultimately enhancing the safety of our system," according to the statement from Atmos.

"I'm glad that they expanded the scope of the work or the geography they were working on," Shover said. "Obviously, it was needed, so I could ask the question: Why wasn't this done? Why wasn't this part of a regular maintenance plan?"

Read more from our media partner The Dallas Morning News.

Read Atmos' July 25 announcement below.

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