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Natural gas leak shuts part of Elgin

Posted: July 1, 2014 4:29 p.m.
Updated: July 2, 2014 5:00 a.m.

A natural gas line rupture caused authorities to evacuate a 400-foot area and shut down U.S 1 in both directions for several blocks in downtown Elgin on Tuesday.According to both Lugoff Fire-Rescue (LF-R) Chief Dennis Ray and Elgin Police Department (EPD) Harold Dennis Brown, it appears a flat-bed truck ran over the gas line.

“The initial report was that a truck ran over the line while turning a corner and busted a valve,” Ray said.

Brown provided additional information, saying the original call came in at 6:53 a.m. He said an eyewitness who called in the incident said the truck drove off after striking the gas line.

“So far, there is about $7,000 worth of damage to the gas company. If we find the driver, there will be a hefty charge. We are looking at a lot of damage; (the driver) would be charged with a hit and run, property damage and leaving the scene of an accident,” Brown said.

The eyewitness was only able to confirm that the truck was heading north.

The rupture happened near the intersection of Main and Kelly streets near a gas station. Ray said both lanes of U.S. 1 (Main Street) were shut down and the immediate area evacuated as a precaution. The line is owned by SCE&G.

“They’re trying to find the next valve to shut off,” Ray said around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday while the area was still blocked off.

For those traveling from Lugoff to Elgin or on toward Columbia, local law enforcement set up a detour using Chesnut, Smyrna and Sessions Roads to get them back on to U.S. 1. At one point, Ray said, traffic was backed up for about three-quarters of a mile back toward Lugoff, but then eased up as people began using the detour.

One concern for SCE&G, Ray said, was finding the next valve to turn off rather than shutting the entire main gas line down.

“They’re not going to shut down anything they don’t have to. They don’t want to shut down the main line if they can isolate one line. Otherwise, they’d have to relight all the pilot lights -- that would be every single business and home in Elgin,” Ray said.

In a way, he said, having the leak be natural gas was good compared to what could have been leaking: propane.

“Natural gas is lighter than air, so it dissipates. As long as nobody flicks a cigarette butt and there’s no vehicles passing by, there’s no danger; it’s an isolated event. We just need to keep people away so it doesn’t inadvertently light,” Ray said. “Propane is heavier, it hugs the ground. If it had been propane, we would have been evacuating a larger area.”

Ironically, Ray said, SCE&G just completed a natural gas leak training scenario with emergency responders in Kershaw County just about a week ago.

“This is a prime example of where training pays off,” he said.

Around 9:50 a.m., SCE&G was able to shut off the gas. By 10:15 a.m., Ray said, emergency crews had been able to leave the scene and U.S. 1 opened back up.

Brown estimated that about 40 gallons of natural gas escaped the broken line.

“We notified local businesses; everything is under control now,” Brown said on Tuesday morning.

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