Hank Investigates: Gas Leaks - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Hank Investigates: Gas Leaks

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It happened at a home in Somerset, in Gloucester and Hopkinton.

Fire, smoke and chaos and destruction and sometimes death--all the result of a natural gas explosion. And what caused the explosions? A gas leak that's ignited by some kind of spark--may be dangerously close to happening near you. Our investigation found tens of thousands of active gas leaks in Massachusetts, potentially hazardous gas seeping out of pipelines and service lines going into homes.

Mark McDonald, New England Gas Workers Association

"It's out of control. I mean, it's a serious risk to the public to have this many gas leaks on hand."

How many? We obtained the gas companies own reports revealing the shocking total of unrepaired leaks: at least 22,000! The gas companies *know* about them, but they don't always fix them. .

There's one here in West Newton, if former gas company inspector Bob Ackley's detector shows between 4 and 15, that's a dangerous level of gas, and in this manhole on Washington street it's a 9.

Bob Ackley, Gas Safety USA, Former Gas Inspector

"The potential is for a disaster."

This one's a "grade one" leak, that's the most dangerous and he reports it immediately.

The meter also shows too much gas in another West Newton manhole just a block away.

Ackley says, his independent testing company finds it time after time.

Hank

"How dangerous is this?"

Bob Ackley, Gas Safety USA, Former Gas Inspector

"This is an existing hazard, it's not a potential hazard, it's an existing hazard."

Where are the rest of the leaks? Here's a list we obtained for just one company! As of July all of these are their unrepaired leaks in Massachusetts.

Hank

"Do you know where the most gas leaks are?"

Mark MacDonald,  New England Gas Workers Association

"They're everywhere, there's so many gas leaks I can't pick out one single town or city because I don't think anybody's safe, they're everywhere."

In Hingham, resident Ed Rose has been calling the gas company for years about leaks under his street.

Ed Rose, Hingham Resident

"When you're working in your garden or mowing your lawn, and you're smelling gas all the time that's a real concern."

So why don't the gas companies fix them?  The state Department of Public Utilities told us: "Neither federal nor state regulations set a time limit." to do repairs.  

Gas companies say they repair the grade one leaks right away, but they insist many are not hazardous--what the industry calls a grade three.                  

Here's the problem experts tell us grade three leaks will eventually get bigger. This gas company document reveals a list of thousands of them!  On this Roslindale street where documents show there was a grade three leak it's now up to a grade one--the kind that poses the most threat for explosion..

Mark McDonald, New England Gas Workers Association

"They're gonna have to come out and address this. It's considered hazardous, it's extremely hazardous."

The trade association for the gas companies serving Massachusetts says: Leaks are repaired on a scheduled basis, according to the condition of the leak. The industry takes leaks seriously and is constantly working to ensure the integrity of its system...Still some residents see video like this--and cross their fingers.

Ed Rose, Hingham resident

"I think it's disgraceful, it's disgraceful that they haven't fixed the leaks."

There's a bill pending on Beacon Hill right now that would require gas leaks be repaired in a set amount of time. The gas association told us--that would be expensive--and unnecessary.

To read more about the bill which would require gas leaks be fixed in a certain time period, click here:

http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/Details/8429

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