LUMBERTON — Although a natural gas line damaged Monday evening was repaired on Tuesday afternoon, traffic on Caton Road will remain blocked off at least until this afternoon.
Crews had to cut 7 to 8 feet below the pavement in two places along Caton Road’s westbound lane to reach the line for repairs, according to Eugene McKeithan, a county maintenance engineer with the state Department of Transportation. McKeithan said crews have not been able to spread new asphalt because of plant closures and rainy weather, so the road has been unsafe for drivers.
McKeithan expects Caton Road, which is N.C. 72 west of Interstate 95, to be fully open later today.
Employees at the nearby International Paper have been able to return to work.
“They have just repaired the leak,” John Batts, site manager at International Paper, said just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday. “Now we can start putting gas to the boiler.”
Batts said that no damage was done to the facility, aside from in the parking lot where the repairs were done.
“All is well, everybody is happy and safe,” he said. Batts said the leak was not a major disruption to business.
About 30 International Paper employees were evacuated from the 820 Caton Road facility on Monday evening when workers with WynnCo Boring inadvertently hit the 4-inch service line. Te leak was reported about 5:30 p.m. and firefighters were on the scene for about 12 hours.
Some employees at Elkay Manufacturing, at 880 Caton Road, were also evacuated as a precaution but got the all-clear at about 10:15 p.m. on Monday, according to spokesperson Linda Carlisle. Work schedules at Elkay Manufacturing were also delayed, Carlisle said.
Lumberton Fire Chief Paul Ivey said firefighters erred on the side of caution when trying to control the situation.
“Our biggest danger was just trying to control ignition sources so the gas couldn’t ignite,” he said. “That was one of the reasons we had to close the factories.”
Ivey said Lumberton has a few gas leaks every year because of accidental cutting of lines, but there have been no explosions as a result.
It’s still unclear how much natural gas was leaked from the Piedmont Natural Gas line. A spokesperson said it could take a couple of days to determine what exactly happened and how much damage was done to the line.