UPDATE: Workers install replacement valve for gas leak

By Charlie Bartlett - bio | email

UPDATE: A company out of Houston, TX has arrived with a replacement valve. While there are no volatile gases being emitted, evacuees will not be allowed to return until the new valve is installed. 7 News is told it may not be finished until tomorrow but they hope to have it finished by nightfall.

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Clean-up crews will return this morning to the scene of a dangerous gas leak in Starks on Greenmore Rd. off Highway 109.

Calcasieu OEP Director Dick Gremillion says a well-head was damaged, leaking poisonous and explosive methane gas from its valve.

"When I left to go to the grocery store I heard a loud noise. When I passed it, I could see the smoke. I didn't know if it was water or gas so I called the fire department," said Gwen Barnes.

Gwen Barnes wasn't the only resident was saw the suspicious smoke. Kathy Hyatt also heard it.

"I was in the house, went outside to get my towel and I heard a loud noise. I drove my car down there and it had some white smoke down the road. I stopped at the pipeline place and me and the other lady who called the fire department was there. I called 911."

Emergency responders came to the scene immediately only to find a well head that was damaged leaking flammable liquids.

"We don't know if it was intentional or accidental but it was damaged and that caused it to damage more once it started leaking. With the valve damaged, you can't turn it off and it continued to leak," said Commander Matt Vezinot.

Since the valve was damaged, responders had to bring special equipment to turn it off. Also at the scene they took air quality samples near the site and it showed the flammable liquids were dangerous.

Some friends went to family and friends houses while others went to the First Baptist Church in Starks.

"There were quite a few residents living in the area and we have all of them evacuated," said Vezinot.

"They allowed me to get my mother's medication but I had to go in with an escort. We had one minute to get what I needed and to get out," said Barnes.

"I was shocked. I left to go to the store and came back. I couldn't get through," said Mildred Vedrine.

"I didn't know if it was going to blow up or not so I hurried up. I went into the house and told everybody we had to evacuate, "said Hyatt.

No injuries have been reported. Crews will continue work on Friday. Highway 109 is open but may be closed throughout the day. Gremillion says the cleanup could take all day, and after the well is capped, the evacuated families will be allowed to return home.

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