CLINTON, Ill. (WCIA) – Emergency crews worked quickly to prevent disaster in Clinton Monday night. For several hours, a gas leak forced the evacuation of roughly 200 homes near the center of town.
For the most part, the coast is now clear for homes in the evacuated area. Those within a four block radius of the Adams & Poplar Streets leak site are still asked to wait until Ameren crews verify it is safe to return.
“We were standing on a bomb pretty much,” Public Health & Safety Commissioner Dan Ballenger said.
And if there was one spark, crews say the gas leak could’ve taken out a whole neighborhood – including the home of Tim Mollet.
“I was driving down the block and there was fire engines everywhere,” Mollet said.
When Mollet got home from work, he had to turn right back around.
“A scary situation like this doesn’t have to be so scary if we know what’s going on and people help us,” Mollet said.
He says that’s exactly what he got. City officials with multiple fire departments immediately started knocking on doors evacuating people 20 blocks to the east and west and six blocks to the north and south of the leak. In the meantime, Mollet says he checked on his elderly neighbors and people with kids.
“That’s what it’s all about, right? Trying to be a good neighbor in a time like this,” Mollet said.
Ballenger says it started with a contractor digging to install fiberoptic cable, hitting a high pressure gas line.
“Which in turn dumped all the natural gas into the manholes, water meters, standpipes and everything,” Ballenger said.
It was the extremely high explosive levels in the sewers he says forced people out of their homes, a school, a community center and a bank for several hours.
“Before you dig, you call JULIE and have the area located. And we’re not sure at this point if that was even done. So we got some investigating to do on it,” Ballenger said.
It could lead to legal action. JULIE is a service that will mark the ground where it’s safe to dig.
“It’ll be a long night, I’m sure,” he said.
Crews were still repairing the line through Monday evening but said it should be completed by the end of the night.