Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Riverdale police evacuated 50-60 residents in the Camp Creek neighborhood, Thursday afternoon, after workers nicked a 2-inch natural gas main inside a Clayton County sewer line.
The evacuation, which lasted more than four hours, affected 154 homes, a laundromat, gift shop and church, said Riverdale Police Chief Samuel F. Patterson. The Waffle House on Ga. 85, near the neighborhood, closed voluntarily, as a precaution, he said.
Clayton County Water Authority Spokeswoman Suzanne Brown said a consultant was televising inside the sewer lines about 2:10 p.m., when a root ball interfered with the project. A worker clearing the root ball nicked an Atlanta Gas Light line that had bored into the sewer line, said Brown.
AGL Spokeswoman Tami Gerke said once the gas supply was shut off, repairs began on the 2-inch line.
Patterson evacuated the residents as a precaution.
"It could be very scary if someone starts a fire, if the gas is contained, because there could be an explosion," he said. "If the gas is not contained, there could be a burst of fire, and that's the reason for the mandatory evacuation."
Linwood Cherry, 54, had been knocking on doors in another neighborhood as part of his Jehovah's Witness ministry, when he called it a day and tried to go home.
"They wouldn't let me go down my street, so I knew something was wrong," said Cherry. "I am thankful I was not home, though, because if I had been asleep, I could have inhaled gas fumes and wouldn't have been able to respond."
The ITT Tech student has rented his home on Camp Street for about five months. He took the offer from Riverdale police to hang out at the old city hall on Church Street until the area was cleared.
Volunteers with the American Red Cross waited at the old council chambers with bottled water, and a 6 p.m., dinner order into Chik-fil-A for sandwiches and fries.
Cherry's neighbor, Anne Dunivin, 94, was not home, either. The former Riverdale city councilwoman was practicing her swimming techniques at the county's indoor pool in Jonesboro.
"This doesn't bother me, this evacuation," said Dunivin. "I have just been running around all day, and I'm tired. I am just enjoying where I am."
About 6 p.m., officials announced repairs were done and residents were free to return home.