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Investigation of sewer blast continues

LEAKS: Zack Malley, field supervisor in the city water and gas department, checks for leaks along a gas line after first checking the sewer manhole at the corner of Rowland and Mill streets for the presence of gas.  Photo by Will Sullivan

LEAKS: Zack Malley, field supervisor in the city water and gas department, checks for leaks along a gas line after first checking the sewer manhole at the corner of Rowland and Mill streets for the presence of gas.
Photo by Will Sullivan

The city and the Pearl River County Utility Authority are continuing their efforts to determine what caused a sewer blast on New Year’s that injured a five-year-old child, said Eric Morris, Picayune’s public works director.

“We did find a (gas system) leak about 60 feet south of the (sewer) manhole” where the child was shooting off fireworks, Morris said.

He said the leak has been “excavated and repaired” along with other leaks found in the system around Mill and Howell streets, the scene of the blast. However, whether the blast was caused by methane naturally building up in the sewer or by natural gas from leaks in the city’s gas system has yet to be determined, Morris said.

He said readings on instruments used to check the sewer system at that and other manholes in the area continue to improve as the city finds and repairs leaks there.

The public works director said leaks that are rated as “ones” need immediate attention, “twos” need attention within a year and “threes” need attention when a gas system operator can get to them.

“Picayune’s have all been rated as twos or threes,” he said.

As for the manhole at the intersection of Mill and Howell where the blast occurred, “We are continuing to read it and are continuing to search for more leaks,” Morris said.

He said in the area where the explosion occurred, the leaks that have been found following the explosion is included in the older section of Picayune and where the city is seeking to have cast iron piping, which Morris referred to “gas mains,” replaced.

Morris said that if all goes well, the city should be able to open new bids in February to have the iron pipes replaced. He said the work should take about 10 months once it begins, but the start date will be determined by how long it takes the contractor that wins the bid to get equipment and people in place.