WHITMAN — A mushroom-like plume of brown debris was seen drifting over homes on Hogg Memorial Drive in Whitman around 8:20 a.m. on Thursday, June 1 after workers in the street hit a gas main while replacing water pipes — an ongoing project in the neighborhood, according to Fire Chief Timothy Grenno.
A Whitman officer on a detail at the scene reported the initial gas break alerting officials to the incident. The area was shut down to traffic and residents in approximately 15 homes on the street, out of an abundance of caution, were evacuated. There were six people combined and the Whitman Middle School on Corthell Avenue was used as a brief place of shelter for those closest to the accident zone, Grenno stated in a press release.
National Grid was on scene later around 9:30 a.m. and began to repair the pipe. Later in the day a Clean Harbor crew was preparing to sanitize the area after 5 p.m. A worker said he was unable to comment on what was being cleaned or tested and referred the Express reporter to National Grid for comments.
The initial incident was startling to neighbors who said they did not hear anything just voices and shouting following the incident as the crew realized they hit the gas main.
Jennifer Grady, who lives at 201 Hogg Memorial Drive where the digging was occurring and quickly realized there was something serious as she saw brown smoke covering her windows. She exited her home and later was directed to leave the area for safety reasons.
Two homes closest to the scene were covered in brown and reddish dirt and rust. There were no reported injuries. Residents were able to return home at about 10:20 a.m. according to Grenno.
“When you have a leak of that size, it clears all the rust and dirt out of the line, because of this, a brown gas cloud covered the south and west end of town and began blowing into the center of town,” Grenno said.
Whitman is at the end of the National Grid line in a highly pressurized area. Firefighters secured the scene and set up hoses to protect nearby structures, anticipating possible ignition of the gas, he said.
EMS was also on scene to assist a male resident on the street who was unable to exit his home due to his medical status and sheltered in place at his residence.
Whitman Police assisted on scene and were instrumental in evacuating homes. The East Bridgewater Fire Department provided station coverage for Whitman and responded to several emergencies in town.
Whitman Fire Rescue cleared the scene around 11:30 a.m. National Grid was on-site completing repairs, and Hogg Memorial Drive was closed until all crews cleared.
“We’re thankful that no one was hurt and we appreciate residents’ cooperation and patience during this incident,” said Chief Grenno “At no time was anyone in serious danger.”