Questions & Answers
Q1: Can you, in simple terms, explain the events that resulted in the incident at 1712 Payne Avenue?
A1: The incident on January 9, 2012, was caused by the ignition of natural gas that escaped from a break in a 4-inch cast-iron gas main running parallel to Payne Avenue and through the front yards of 1710 and 1712. This leak in the main occurred sometime shortly before the incident. The exact path of gas migration has not been determined. The source of ignition is unknown. The likely contributing cause of the break in the main on January 9, 2012, was shifting soil due to severe drought conditions followed by rainfall.
Sadly, the leak and subsequent ignition resulted in an incident fatal to the homeowner, Mr. Renald Ferrovecchio. The Texas Gas Service family extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Ferrovecchio and will continue to work with those affected by this incident.
Q2: Was the pipe in bad condition?
A2: The main line pipe on Payne Avenue where the break occurred was in good working order prior to the break, having been surveyed as recently as July 2011. That same line was inspected again on November 25, 2011, by the technician responding to a reported service line leak, and no leak was found.
We survey the cast-iron lines in the system regularly and respond to reports of suspected leaks. Following the incident on Payne Avenue, we re-surveyed all 32 miles of the cast-iron pipe in our Austin system and affirmed the integrity of those lines.
Q3: How old was it?
A3: It was a cast-iron pipe installed in 1950.
Q4: Is cast-iron safe?
A4: Yes. Natural gas flows through the pipeline at relatively low pressure. Cast-iron pipe is a safe method of delivering natural gas.
Q5: How far from the house at 1712 Payne was the break in the gas main?
A5: It was in the right of way next to the street, approximately 40 feet from the house.
Q6: Was this the same leak reported on November 25, 2011?
A6: No. The leak reported on November 25, 2011, was in connection to a service line, the line that branches off the main and runs to the house. Repair efforts on that service line were under way per our normal protocols. Based on the investigation, this small service line leak did not cause the incident of January 9, 2012.
Q7: How many miles of cast-iron pipe are on the Austin system?
A7: We have approximately 32 miles of cast-iron pipe in the Austin distribution system. We survey the cast-iron lines in the system regularly and respond to reports of suspected leaks. Following the incident on Payne Avenue, we re-surveyed the cast-iron pipe in our Austin system and affirmed the integrity of those lines.
Q8: How is a reported leak investigated?
A8: We investigate reports of suspected leaks and can use a combination of tools in those investigations. We often use a tool called a Mobile Flame Ionization Analyzer (FI) to test for traces of methane in the air. A device known as a Remote Methane Leak Detector (RMLD) can be used to help locate the proximity of a suspected leak. It works like a flashlight. When you shine its laser beam onto the ground above a buried pipe, the RMLD reports the amount of gas between the sensor and the surface. Our technicians can also use a tool called a Combustible Gas Indicator (CGI). It looks like a metal detector and is used to pinpoint the exact location of a leak. Once that location is identified, repairs can be undertaken.