Some businesses able to return after weekslong evacuation along Williams Drive

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Updated April 4 at 9:31 a.m.

Local leaders are taking several approaches to help businesses affected by a lengthy evacuation order that continued for more than a month following an underground natural gas pipeline leak Feb. 20 near River Bend and Williams drives.

Close to 60 businesses and several blocks of residences in the area have remained under evacuation, although some companies have received the go-ahead to reopen. The Georgetown Fire Department issued the evacuation order as a precaution in coordination with natural gas provider Atmos Energy.

Atmos will host a community update meeting for affected businesses and residents at 7 p.m. on April 4 at the Sheraton Austin Georgetown Hotel & Conference Center, 1101 Woodlawn Ave., Georgetown.

The leak, which occurred at River Bend Drive been fixed, but homes and businesses remain evacuated due to unique soil conditions in the area that are causing residual natural gas that accumulates underground to ventilate slowly, Atmos Communications ManagerCelina Cardenas Fleites said.

The removal process includes venting, vacuuming, evacuation and suction processes. Atmos Energy also installed a series of vent wells and retained geologists to assist in these efforts, as dense clay, moisture and the makeup of the soil inhibited evaporation of gas, according to a news release.

Georgetown City Council voted March 26 to waive temporary-sign permit fees until Sept. 30 for businesses affected by the evacuation. City staff will also expedite reviews of permit applications.

Prior to the council’s vote, City Manager David Morgan said the idea for the fee waiver came out of a meeting among business owners, city officials and leaders of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.

“We talked about ways in which the city and the chamber could help with the situation, specifically with the business community,” Morgan said.

Council Member Valerie Nicholson, whose district includes portions of the evacuated area, thanked business owners and residents for their patience and called the matter an “unprecedented situation.”

“We’re doing all we can to help,” she said.

The chamber is providing additional assistance to businesses that have been able to reopen since the start of the evacuation order as well as those that have yet to return to their offices and storefronts.

Efforts include a website, https://georgetownchamber.org/williams-drive, that lists businesses affected by the
evacuation and updates on whether they are open or working from temporary locations.

Atmos will provide details on when the evacuation orders can be lifted once that information is available, according to the company.

Atmos has a Georgetown-specific customer service phone line at 888-992-8667. The company is also providing updates online at www.atmosenergy.com/safety/georgetown-texas.

Correction: The headline on this story has been updated to properly reflect facts reported in the story regarding the repair of the Feb. 20 gas leak. 

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