WFAA-TV's Brett Shipp

WFAA-TV’s Brett Shipp

More than 800 miles of corroding cast iron gas main pipes wind through the soil leading to and from many neighborhood homes and alleys, according to news reported on WFAA-TV Channel 8. In September 2011, a damaged cast iron pipe leaking natural gas exploded in Oak Cliff, hospitalizing a woman and her five-year-old son for weeks with critical injuries and burns suffered in the explosion.

WFAA reporter Brett Shipp says Atmos Energy, which owns the cast iron gas mains, is aware of the locations but hasn’t been eager to provide them to the media. So Channel 8 mapped public records of gas leaks and repairs, providing a pretty good indication of where the pipes are located. My understanding of the situation is that Atmos is responsible for repairing/replacing gas mains in public areas such as alleys, while homeowners are responsible for the replacement/repair cost from the alley to the house.

There’s also a great interactive map feature accompanying the story that allows you to zoom into an area and click on dots that indicate pipe repairs for additional details, as well as an option to type in an address to pull up information in and around it. You may not be eager to find out how close this issue may hit to home, and there’s nothing sexy or even fulfilling about digging up and paying for replacement of aging pipe in your backyard. But far better to discover the problem now before anything really bad happens.

We had a leaking cast iron gas pipe leading from the alley to our house replaced probably 15 years ago; I smelled natural gas outside the home as I was leaving for an out-of-town trip. I reported it to the gas company, which promptly shut off the gas and wouldn’t turn it back on until the leak had been repaired, which involved digging up the cast iron pipe all the way from the house to the alley and replacing it. I managed the process from afar while my wife took care of our two young sons, who just happened to catch the flu (complete with upchuck action) while I was gone and while there was no gas-fired hot water in the house. I still hear about that lost week from time to time.