Pa. office workers to return Thursday following gas leak - abc27 WHTM

Pa. office workers to return Thursday following gas leak

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For many state workers, Wednesday was their first day back to work in 2013, but for some it didn't last for long.

Chris Kiessling, who works in the North Office Building at the Capitol Complex, said just before lunch his office was told to evacuate because of a natural gas leak.

Troy Thompson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, said the decision to evacuate was made in order to maintain safety for workers and the public.

"With gas leaks, they are a different type of animal," Thompson said, "You do have to be careful with them. The utility crews need to take their time to make sure the issue is resolved."

More than 300 workers were removed from the building. Officials said that around 10:30 a.m., an odor of natural gas was detected by workers and the decision was made shortly after.

By noon, the building was evacuated and nearby streets were shut down by fire officials and police officers while UGI crews worked to find the problem.

Michael Fessler, a UGI spokesman, said crews did get a positive reading for natural gas inside the North Office Building. They determined it is coming from a 16-inch natural gas main located on Commonwealth Avenue.

Fessler said the leak would take several hours, perhaps all night and into Thursday morning to repair, because navigating under Commonwealth Avenue is difficult, with electric, cable, Internet and phone lines, as well as water and sewer lines.

"I would think we are going to be here throughout the night, maybe until the early morning hours because of the diligence we need to work around all these unique utilities here," he said.

To fully resolve the situation, UGI will seal off the affected 16-inch low pressure main, purge all natural gas from the affected segment of the main, and retire the pipe.  While purging the main, individuals in the area could hear a hissing sound, and might detect the smell similar to rotten eggs.

It's not exactly how some workers thought 2013 would get started.

"Not the way I wanted to ring in the New Year," Kiessling said, "I have work to be done, but we have a gas leak so we have to do what they tell us to do."

Thompson told abc27 Wednesday night that state workers are to return to the office Thursday morning, but will face significant traffic delays along Commonwealth Avenue.

While work is being done to repair the leak, traffic and nearby parking garages could be affected.

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