Pipeline problem follow



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Posted on November 2, 2012 at 10:20 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 3 at 3:19 PM

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AUSTIN -- It is a scene many Austin families cannot forget. In January, a gas explosion leveled a home on Payne Avenue killing a young father.

A months long KVUE Defenders Investigation found the same type of pipe the state blames for causing that explosion remains in many older Austin neighborhoods. One Austin homeowner found that getting old cast iron pipe replaced isn’t always easy.

"I smelled a gas leak at the top of my drive and it was the neighbor across the street who brought it to my attention," said Austin homeowner Stephanie Morrison.

It was February, weeks after Renald Ferrovechio had died in his home.

Stephanie Morrison immediately called her gas company Texas Gas which came out to investigate.

"They didn't tell me a whole lot other than they were going to repair the line and put a clamp on it,” she said. “They basically did that and left."

That might have been the end of it, if not for the KVUE Defenders. We found decades of problems with cast iron pipe, the same kind that cracked outside Renald Ferrovechio's home in January killing the 43-year-old single father.

Don Deaver worked for Exxon for 33 years investigating the company's pipeline failures. Deaver now testifies as an expert witness in gas explosion cases across the country.

Deaver said cast iron is brittle and shouldn't be in the ground.

"With cast iron you have a history of problems where you get a catastrophic break of the cast iron itself. Oftentimes it will totally break in half," he said.   

Deaver said cast iron is especially dangerous in areas prone to drought. In fact, he said gas companies haven't used it for new lines since the 1980s and many homeowners who have it don't know.

The Defenders learned Texas Gas still has up to 32 miles of cast iron pipe in its system around Austin.

The company did re-inspect those lines following  the explosion and said they are safe, but won't say where they are.

"It was actually your continued reporting on this story and educating the general public about the difference in cast iron and steel. That actually stayed in the back of my mind and prompted me to make another call to them," said Morrison.

Morrison demanded Texas Gas replace the cast iron pipe in front of her house.

 "I was afraid my house would blow up frankly," she said.

Three weeks of calls and Texas Gas finally agreed.

"That's all I've ever wanted is for them to come out do the right thing, be responsible, solve the problem so that I can have peace of mind at night when i go to sleep," Morrison said. “I don't want that (what  happened to Ferrovechio) to happen again in Austin. It shouldn't have to."       

Morrison said she's an example to others to not sit back and wait.

Texas Gas Service declined KVUE's requests for an interview but did say the replacement outside Morrison's home is part of their replacement plan required by the state. We asked to see that plan, but the Texas Railroad Commission didn't have a copy of it.

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