More natural gas leaks found around obliterated home



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Posted on September 27, 2011 at 7:11 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 27 at 10:26 PM

SEATTLE – Puget Sound Energy said Tuesday that contractors found four more gas leaks in the system near the Pinehurst home that exploded Monday morning.

Officials with the utility said they believe the eight total leaks, which have sprung since Sunday afternoon, are likely connected to a downed tree and power outage in Seattle’s Pinehurst neighborhood. Andy Wappler, with PSE, said the tree prompted the transmission of electricity through a steel pipe system, puncturing holes throughout.

“The holes in the pipes are very distinctive, broken out metal, and very different than a pipe that has aged or corroded,” said Wappler.

However, another PSE spokesperson said three of the four leaks found Tuesday have been ruled out as being caused by the downed tree and energized pipe.

He described the system as “safe,” even as contractors worked to detect and fix the leaks within a five-mile radius. The pipe network was last inspected and passed in 2008. PSE crews will continue inspections Wednesday.

However, an investigator for the State’s Utilities and Transportation Commission said it’s too early to say where the problem lies. 

Al Jones, a Pipeline Safety Engineer, who has been inspecting the affected area, says it’s too early to rush to judgment. 

“The nature of what cause this hasn’t been identified.  There are several theories,” said Jones. “We’re not sure until we have the parts together.”

Jones said the commission will look at welds, insulation, and grounding systems, in addition to the electrical surge theory.

Diane Smith, who watched contractors tear apart her yard to fix a leak, said she’s not taking any chances.

“I want it off,” said Smith.  “They say it’s no big deal.  But I’m uncomfortable, and I’ve felt that way.”

Meanwhile, one of the two victims from Monday's explosion, David Ingham, has been released from Harborview Medical Center. His wife, Hong Ingham, remains hospitalized, last listed in serious condtiion.