By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green city leaders are still waiting for a meeting with Columbia Gas officials about explosive levels of gas leaked into the downtown Thursday evening leading to the evacuation of several businesses and apartments.
City officials have concerns since the fire division was not notified until hours after the leak was noticed. By time firefighters arrived on the scene, the gas levels were at “lower explosive limits.”
Gas employees working in downtown Bowling Green held a “safety shutdown” meeting today for the crews working in the downtown to discuss Thursday’s leak.
Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved.
“We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.”
However, city officials have not yet had a chance to express their concerns.
Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads.
When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas.
“The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural gas.”
The Bowling Green Police Division joined the fire division in evacuating the businesses and residents in the general area of the leak in the 100 block of South Main Street. The street was also closed to traffic to limit the risks.
The fire division ventilated the affected buildings and stayed on the scene until about 11:20 p.m.
“It was a dangerous situation. It was handled well by police and fire,” Moorman said.
However, city officials do have some concerns about how the leak was handled by Columbia Gas. So city officials want to be heard.
“We’ve got concerns like everybody else,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said on Friday. “We want to share the concerns of the public.”
Moorman is also anxious to discuss how leaks can be handled in the future.
“We need to come up with a better procedure if it ever happens again,” he said.