WAXAHACHIE, Texas - Crews dug up the gas lines near four homes in Waxahachie as part of a lawsuit following last year’s natural gas explosion.
More than 20 Waxahachie residents are suing Atmos Energy for negligence. They claim the company failed to act on reports that gas service was disrupted in the neighborhood for days in September of 2015.
They also allege Atmos incorrectly placed at least one excess flow valve, making it ineffective. On Monday, excavators hired by the plaintiffs looked for more EFVs that were incorrectly placed.
Attorney Tom Carse said he uncovered the exact same gas line configuration that his lawsuit claims could lead to another explosion in the Waxahachie subdivision.
“It's supposed to be placed as close as possible to the main,” he explained. "This is a part of the work we’re doing to prove our allegations that had Atmos installed the excess flow value on 112 Arabian Road at or near where the service line ties into the main, I'm not standing here talking to you about this. That explosion doesn't happen."
“The neighborhood needs to feel like it's safe,” said Plaintiff Jeff Dotson. “They don't want to have something like this happen again.”
An Atmos representative and one of the company's attorneys were witnesses to the excavation work but declined to talk on camera.
The homeowners claim that the company’s negligence led to several homes being damaged. A few were completely destroyed and three people were hurt.
Adele Chavez’ home was leveled. The explosion happened after she turned on her electric cooktop to prepare breakfast for her brother. She ended up spending more than a month in the hospital recovering from severe burns.
The EFV across from Chavez’ home was incorrectly placed. The homeowners argue the $30 device could have shut off the gas automatically after the line was ruptured and potentially prevented the explosion.
In response to Monday discovery, paid for by the plaintiff's attorney, Atmos released a statement saying, “While the use of an EFV in certain circumstances may help to limit the effects/damages of an incident, the best prevention against such incidents is to ensure that those excavating on or near your property are following the law by CALLING 811 and to expose gas pipelines by hand digging."
It’s not yet clear what the excavators found near the other four homes mentioned in the lawsuit.
Chavez is also suing the contractors who cut the gas line while installing fiber optic utilities in the neighborhood.