EDWARDSVILLE — A city block of downtown Edwardsville was evacuated Monday night after a contractor punctured a gas line.
City officials confirmed that a Kentucky subcontractor for AT&T cut a one-inch gas line under the pavement in the 1100 block of North Main Street during a boring operation about 3:30 p.m.
"A one-inch line doesn't sound like much, but it was underground and started leaking into the basement of an apartment building," said Edwardsville Fire Chief Rick Welle. "We had significant readings of natural gas in the basement."
The apartment building was evacuated and ventilated, but Welle said there was still gas building up under the pavement. Traffic was rerouted off Main Street onto the small streets in the nearby neighborhoods, and residents for a one-block radius were evacuated -- though an officer at the site said most of the buildings in the area are businesses, rather than residences.
There were no explosions and no one became ill from the gas leak, Welle said. "We caught it early on," he said. Storm sewer lines also were being monitored by the fire department.
As of 7 p.m., Welle said Ameren crews were still trying to get the gas shut off and there was a strong smell of gas in the area. Power had been shut down, as is standard procedure in cases of gas leaks. He was hopeful that the gas would be shut off within the next couple of hours.
"Once it's cleared, we can turn on the electricity, but that won't help (the residents); it's gas heat," Welle said. "We still have to get the gas line repaired or replaced."
Welle said the evacuated residents have all gone to other places. He has been in touch with the building owner, he said, so they can stay in touch with the residents once the block is safe again.
In the meantime, he said, motorists should try to avoid the north end of Main Street and take alternate routes to avoid congestion on the side roads.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.