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I-Team: Automatic Shut-Off Valves Would Make Gas Lines Safer, But Few Exist

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Mireya Villarreal
A native Texan, Mireya was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley....
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - After a gas-fueled fire scored a Lake Highlands home, it took more than two hours for Atmos workers to get the gas shut off.

In an emergency, the longer the gas flows, the higher the risk for disaster.

The gas distribution lines that lead up to homes can only be turned off manually.

Often, crews will have to wait to turn off a leak until the gas burns out of the line, as was the case for the Wednesday’s Lake Highlands fire.

CBS 11 I-Team Investigator Mireya Villareal found there is technology that can be used to shut-off lines sooner.  Valves that can automatically cut the flow of gas through the line have been around for years, but are rarely used in lines under homes because companies claim they are too expensive.

A federal report takes a close look at automatic shut-off valves on transmission lines, which are the bigger pipes that carry gas from a big facility to an entire neighborhood. Last year, President Obama signed a new federal act that will require gas companies to install those automatic shut-off valves on new or replaced transmission lines. The hope is that this change will keep families safe even after a gas line is hit.

“We need to always look at using the best technology that’s available and doing it in a cost effective way.  If we can have that put in over time in places that really need it, we’ll certainly look at that,” said Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission.

Smitherman says the commission often recommends using this technology but doesn’t expect to make it a requirement any time soon.

Atmos does use automatic shut-off valves on some of their lines.  But would not tell CBS 11 which ones or how many have been installed.  The company says it does not use automatic shut-off valves on the lines under homes because it’s not a requirement.

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