On Feb. 20, Atmos Energy arrived at 507 River Bend, Georgetown, to repair an underground gas leak. That leak has since been fixed, but homes and businesses along Williams Drive remain evacuated due to unique soil conditions in the area that are causing residual gas—natural gas that accumulates underground—to ventilate slowly, Atmos Energy Communications Manager Celina Cardenas Fleites said.
“The safety of the public, our employees and our system is our highest priority,” Cardenas Fleites said. “We continually monitor conditions in the area and, out of an abundance of caution, evacuations will remain in place until we are confident it is safe to reoccupy the structures.”
The removal process includes venting, vacuuming, evacuation and suction, according to a March 20 city of Georgetown news release. Atmos Energy has also installed a series of vent wells and retained geologists to assist in these efforts, the release said. Dense clay, moisture and the make‐up of the soil has inhibited the evaporation of the gas, it said.
The city has not declared a disaster as of March 20, which would give local officials the ability to exercise extraordinary powers, including providing liability protection to government agencies and emergency workers or to formally request general assistance from the state and federal governments.
Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross said the reason for not making the declaration was the city does not have oversight of pipeline safety. The responsibility rests with the Texas Railroad Commission, and declaring a disaster would not provide new or different resources available that are not already being provided, he said.
“To further ensure a safe and expedient resolution, I have formally requested the Texas Department of Emergency Management to begin an assessment of this situation,” Ross said in the release. “Should the situation evolve, the City stands prepared to declare a disaster and call on additional resources from our fellow governmental agencies.”
Atmos Energy has provided hotel accommodations and food stipends to affected residents. The company has also worked to fully compensate affected businesses, paying claims and connecting businesses with resources to continue their operations, the release said.
Cardenas Fleites said Atmos will provide an update and timeframe for lifting the evacuations when possible.
More than 120 homes and businesses around Williams Drive have been affected by the Atmos Energy gas leak.[/caption]