How Safe Are The Pipelines Underneath Our Homes?

Last September, a massive gas explosion in San Bruno destroyed dozens of homes — killing at least 4 people and leaving more than 60 injured. The explosion is believed to have been caused by an underground gas pipe rupture.
Investigators claim the pipe, which was installed in 1956, had a long seam where it was welded together and may have been susceptible to corrosion. There are two and a half million miles of pipeline crisscrossing the nation. Much of that infrastructure is at least 40 years old and often in decay. So how can you determine if there’s a gas leak in your home or neighborhood?

Here are some ways to determine if there might be a natural gas leak in your area:

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  • Smell: Natural gas is colorless and odorless but utility companies often add an odor to the gas so that leaks can be detected. At the start of heating season, some utility companies will send scratch-and-sniff samples so that you know what to look for. Typically, it’s a rotten egg smell
  • Hear: If you hear a roaring, hissing or whistling sound, it could be a leak
  • See: Look for a white cloud or a misty fog. If you notice bubbles in standing water or vegetation that appears dead or seems to be dying for no reason, there might be a natural gas leak

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If you do suspect a leak, you should leave your house immediately. Open your windows if there is a faint odor. Don’t do anything that could create a spark, meaning don’t turn on and off your lights or appliances or use your telephone or cell phone. Ringing a doorbell or even starting your car could create a spark.