DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A verbal beat down Tuesday night at a town hall as residents demand to know why gas leaks caused two house fires and an explosion that killed a little girl in a Dallas neighborhood north of Love Field.
“How can we trust y’all,” asked one resident.
Another turned her attention to the city council representatives in attendance.
“What are they going to do to make sure Atmos does their job,” she asked.
Over and over again, fearful and frustrated residents took airing grievances and demanding to know how gas leaks were ignored, culminating in a Friday morning explosion that killed 12-year-old Linda Rogers.
Bertha Benitiz attended the meeting to tell Atmos Energy, face to face, that she called to report a gas leak February 16, one week before the explosion. She says the flame on her gas stove was red instead of blue. She says Atmos never sent anyone. After hearing her story, an Atmos representative promised to send a technical over to inspect her house.
After the tongue lashing, Jennifer Altieri, the spokeswoman for Atmos, who for days has refused to react to residents’ concerns about safety, acknowledged there’s a problem.
“We have to work with you to rebuild trust. We understand that,” Altieri said.
She added that the safety measures Atmos is taking now is part of rebuilding that trust. The gas provider is replacing 2.5 miles of pipes in the area. As part of returning gas services to customers, Atmos will absorb all costs, including any repairs made to gas-powered appliances like stoves.
To ensure safety, Atmos says it is expanding gas leak testing to surrounding areas that weren’t directly affected by the gas leaks and subsequent evacuations last week. Atmos’ efforts have only created more fear for residents, who see Atmos crews on their street and assume Atmos is addressing an actual gas leak instead of being proactive. Many residents asked for maps that would show where Atmos crews are working and what they’re doing.
Atmos tells CBS 11, gas service is expected to be fully restored by Sunday, although it is slowly coming on for certain blocks and streets. At least 300 residents are still displaced from their home, either due to mandatory evacuations or because they don’t have gas service.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, attended the meeting in an effort to calm fear and dispel rumors, telling residents the city is working with the federal investigators to find out what happened
“A life has been lost, property has been lost. We’ve got infrastructure issues that need to be changed,” he said.
Neither Atmos or city leaders addressed what caused the gas leaks, saying that is part of an investigation. Kim Phillips, who was not directly impacted but lives minutes from the home that exploded, says she worries her neighborhood could see similar problems. That’s why she went to the town hall.
“I don’t think I’m going to sleep any better tonight than I have in the last three or four nights,” said Phillips.