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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

Following a News 8 investigation that stretched for nearly four years, Atmos Energy has confirmed that it will voluntarily remove hundreds of thousands of old pipes and couplings believed to be responsible for explosions, deaths and injuries in north Texas dating back to the 1980s.

Since News 8 broke the news of the massive removal program on Wednesday, many viewers have expressed concern about how and when they might be affected, but both Atmos and state officials remain relatively quiet and non-committal.

As Peggy Mantheiy of Irving watched her home being bulldozed a few weeks ago, she was still in shock.

She lost her home and her husband Joe to an explosion now blamed on a leaking underground natural gas coupling. Mantheiy has now learned the same coupling was responsible for other explosions, deaths and injuries since the 1980s.

They should have corrected it before it got to this point of losing a life, Mantheiy said.

In a quietly-brokered arrangement with the Texas Railroad Commission, Atmos Energy is removing the questionable couplings believed responsible for so much tragedy.

But details of that removal plan have been murky.

State officials have reluctantly divulged information that the plan involves a half-million steel pipes and an estimated one million couplings being removed from 39 cities in North and Central Texas. The work has already started, but crews are apparently not eager for publicity.

In fact, Atmos crews called police to complain of a WFAAcamera near their excavation site.

But many questions remain, including:

  • Whose lines are being replaced?
  • When will they be replaced?
  • How will they be replaced?

Atmos' response to News 8 is basically the same given to us for the past three-and-a-half years.

Atmos Energy is committed to providing safe and reliable natural gas service to the communities we serve. We have been working with the Texas Railroad Commission and the cities we serve on a comprehensive steel service line replacement plan, said Susan Harris, Atmos spokesperson. If you smell gas, leave the area immediately, then call 911 or Atmos and we will send a professional to investigate.

No other details are being provided.

No explanations.

No timetables.

The information void leaves concerned customers and residents to guess as to what's going on, and Peggy Mantheiy with a fragile sense of security.

I just don't want this to ever, ever happen to anybody else, she said.

Editor's note: This is the latest development in a story WFAA has covered over three years. It began with our investigation into a house explosion, which has now resulted in over 500,000 steel lines and compression couplings being removed.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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