• Gas Explosion Investigation Update


    GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Nearly one month after a gas leak and explosion leveled two grand junction homes and threatened hundreds of others, Grand Junction city officials discussed the latest in the investigation Monday evening.

    Although officials still don't have the answer as to whether or not the gas line that was clipped on March 19 was unmarked, a fairly important distinction for that pipe has been made.

    "What we've learned from Xcel was that the line was an intermediate pressure line. So, that's larger than a common residential line. It's used to supply a larger area," explained Ken Watkins, Grand Junction's fire chief .

    For example, a pipe of that caliber would supply an area similar to the evacuation perimeter of Bookcliff to North avenues and Fifth to Ninth streets.

    Watkins says the gas leak that compromised an eight to 10 block radius affected an estimated 842 residents, including three schools, one daycare center and two churches.

    Along with hundreds of city, utility and police personnel, all five fire stations responded. The Mesa County Communications Center received more than 700 calls in the first two hours and about 1,200 calls total in reference to the event.

    "[Our goal was] to help them understand what was going on and the work that was continuing to happen," explained Watkins.

    The city's attorney currently estimates emergency response for the incident comes to about $20,000 in hard costs.

    After LEL (lower explosive limit) gas levels peaked at 45 to 50 percent, the clocked in at zero percent Monday. However, officials say the levels fluctuate slightly from day to day.

    Work at Seventh and Orchard remains unfinished to give the community time to heal, while officials incorporate improvements in the way construction projects are handled in the future.

    "[We will be] talking with neighbors so they know what's going on and making sure we've got an adequate emergency response plan if there is an emergency," explained Greg Trainor, the city's Public Works and Utilities director.

    Construction on the intersection is set for completion late summer/early fall. The city will do no boring and will notify the public in advance.

    Officials say it will be several months before key details in the investigation are finalized. The Grand Junction Fire Department is also working on an After-Action Report to evaluate each entity's involvement in the incident. Officials say this will help identify the area's emergency response strengths and weaknesses to improve for future situations. Watkins says he expects to have the investigation completed within the next several months.

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