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Mayor: We're playing Russian Roulette with people's lives

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 05 2011 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 07 2011 10:20:48 AM CDT

Gas leak in Allentown spurs concerns

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

In the wake of another close call involving a gas line, one local mayor is speaking out. He said we're playing Russian Roulette with people's lives.

If old gas lines aren't replaced soon, there could be another explosion like the one that killed five people earlier this year in Allentown.

Wednesday, a scare came in the form of a gas leak just five blocks from the February explosion. Mayor Ed Pawlowski said that leak had the potential to level another city block.

He said his hands are tied on the city level so he's looking for help from the federal government. He thought there would be new regulations in place after the deadly explosion back in February but he's still waiting.

"We're playing a game of Russian roulette here with people's lives," said Pawlowski.

It's a game he doesn't want to play anymore.

The mayor said there have been 300 detected gas leaks since the explosion that killed five people in February at 13th and Allen streets.

"This is a ticking time bomb that needs to be addressed and I am pleading with both our state legislators, our federal legislators," he said. "Do something to regulate this industry before another tragedy happens."

Residents living next door to the most recent leak at 17th and Allen say they want something done about the old gas lines as well.

"Find the problem fix it, so that we all can have a little piece of mind," said Robert Jackson who lives on 17th Street.

Replacing the old lines is key according to Pawlowski.

First responders have answered 300 calls for detected gas leaks in the last eight months. Ten times they've had to evacuate people.

"Im very concerned," said Allentown Fire Chief Robert Scheirer. "I've seen my share of natural gas explosions here in the city. I hope to never see another one but I'm sure I will."

In a written statement, a UGI spokesperson said the gas leak at17th and Allen was in an old cast iron line.

The statement goes on further to say the company has replaced 6 miles of line from 13th and Allen since February.