A loud roaring noise, which some residents described as sounding like a jet engine, was heard in the Lake Norman area Friday afternoon and evening, followed by the smell of gas from Cornelius to Davidson to Mount Mourne. The odor of gas prompted more than two dozen 911 calls in Davidson and Cornelius between 5 and 8:30pm, as well as calls in the south Iredell area.
We traced the sound by bicycle and found it coming from the new Piedmont Natural Gas pipeline off NC 115 north of town. A worker on the site of the new gas pipeline told DavidsonNews.net around 6pm the company was blowing off gas from the pipeline, which stretches about 8 miles through town. When asked further questions, he said he had to leave and sped off quickly in his truck.
At around 5pm, Cornelius and Davidson fire units began responding to a series of calls reporting the smell of gas, including one at Flatiron Kitchen in downtown Davidson, and calls in the St. Alban’s neighborhood, along Concord Road, and on Griffith Street. Calls also came in from residents around Cornelius, especially those on the lake and in the Torrence Chapel area. Dispatchers reported similar calls in south Iredell county, just north of the pipeline site.
Public safety officials apparently did not receive any advance warning about the gas testing, and there was no media alert. At 7:15, as calls about gas leaks continued to come in from both Davidson and Cornelius, firefighters were asking dispatchers to find out if there were any tests going on.
At around 8:30pm, residents in Cornelius reported hearing an explosion, which apparently was the result of another gas release from the pipe.
A Huntersville fire spokesman said around 8:45pm that dispatchers had finally learned the cause of the gas smell, and were told the blow off was complete.
Piedmont Natural Gas spokesman David Trusty initally told DavidsonNews.net that he was unaware of any tests or pipeline work that would cause the odor and sounds.
At 8:50pm, Trusty called back to confirm that the company had been releasing high-pressure gas on Friday from a 30-inch pipeline near the new line just north of Davidson. The blow off was in preparation for tying it in to the new line, he said.
Since gas in the pipeline is under hundreds of pounds of pressure, it can make a sound “like a very loud train” or a jet engine when it is released, he said.
Calls about outdoor gas smells continued past 9pm. The gas smell can linger depending on weather conditions, Trusty said.
Trusty said the company typically sends media advisories or alerts to the surrounding community when pipelines are vented or testing is being done. In this case, he said, there was no advisory.
“For what it’s worth, I apologize that we didn’t do a better job of letting folks know about this,” he said.
The new 8-mile pipeline runs from Lake Davidson in south Iredell, through Davidson and the Davidson College campus, across Grey, Shearers and East Rocky River Roads, and into Cabarrus County. It’s being built to deliver natural gas to Duke Energy’s Sutton Plant near Wilmington, which is being converted from coal to natural gas.
“We are pretty close to finishing it,” Trusty said Friday night. The company hopes to have the gas line in service by June 1, he said.
Read about the pipeline on DavidsonNews.net.