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Service Being Restored After Gas Leak at UMass


AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) — A massive gas leak forces evacuations and tense moments at UMass Amherst Tuesday.

Tonight, some in Amherst are without gas service as crews continue to work towards fixing the big line.

The university used emails, text messages, and campus announcements to get the word out about the dangerous gas leak today.

Sirens sound the ‘all-clear’ at UMass after a massive gas leak.

“About 1:40 this afternoon, we had report from a contractor whose has been working on an infrastructure project that they hit a major gas line, it’s a six inch line,” explains UMass spokesperson Daniel Fitzgibbons.

A command post was set up and evacuations of the Southwest Residential Area and several other campus buildings were ordered gas spewed for about three hours, leading to strong smells across campus.

“It was a really strong smell. At first, it didn’t smell like gas. It smelled like really old cold medicine and then we were evacuated to the rec center and that was really disappointing because I wanted to watch the World Cup game,” says UMass freshman David Marpaung.

The problem was that a large piece of heavy equipment was on top of the ruptured line, so moving it could literally spark an explosion.

“They tried at least two times to get to the line itself…to try to patch it right there, so they didn’t have to shut it down, but they were not successful in that,” adds Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Donald McKay.

While the fire department stood by and wet down the area as a precaution, eventually Berkshire Gas decided the safest move was to shut down the main gas line servicing the university and surrounding neighborhood.

McKay adds, “To repair that in order to restore service, a Berkshire gas representative has to go to every single gas meter on everybody’s house and shut that off and make sure that’s shut before they can actually restore, turn the gas back on.”

Impacted customers were told to expect two visits from a Berkshire Gas technician. While repair work continued all night, UMass says they are just grateful that it happened after Commencement and before summer camps start.

Fitzgibbons says, “It’s fortunate that Southwest isn’t occupied at the time because there are usually 5,000 students alone living in that area.”

Berkshire Gas says that repairs were competed to the gas line around 6:30 p.m.

In total, 16 customers has service disrupted during the repair work. The company is now working to restore service to those customers.

No injuries were reported.

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