Corroding Gas Lines Put Us All in Danger

A shocking new threat to the safety of Texas residents has recently been uncovered. More than 800 miles of Dallas-based Atmos Energy’s gas piping is made of cast iron, a material that the government told gas providers to remove in 1973 because it can deteriorate and corrode. According to a citation from the Texas Railroad Commission, Atmos does not have a “cast-iron replacement program in place;” this fact creates a constant state of danger and has even caused serious injuries.

The night of September 18, 2011 the Mendez family had just returned to their garage apartment in Dallas and turned on a light. Immediately, there was an explosion that knocked them out. The whole family was hospitalized for a week; the mother and five-year-old son almost died.

While investigating the cause of the explosion, Atmos workers discovered a 19-inch fracture in a cast iron gas main nearby. That pipe was just three feet from the explosion site. Experts believe that the crack caused the pipe to fail and triggered the explosion.

Unfortunately, the cracked pipe is not unusual in the region. The Texas Railroad Commission has recorded over 2300 repairs of cast iron leaks in the Atmos system in the past four years alone.

While the repairs seem to only just have begun, gas companies like Atmos have known about the potential hazards for decades. In 1973, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) warned providers about the hazards of corrosion and advised them to take “necessary action.” In 1985, the NTSB recommended that all “cast-iron mains … should be phased out;” in 1992, they told the gas industry to adopt “cast-iron piping replacement programs.”

CenterPoint Energy listened to the NTSB and removed all cast-iron pipes beneath Houston in the early 90s. In stark contrast, Atmos still operates 841 miles of cast-iron piping, mostly under the streets of Dallas. The Houston-based personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin can’t help but wonder: how many more people must be injured or killed before gas companies like Atmos will finally make all our Texas cities safe?

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