Empire was evacuated for leaking gas well

EMPIRE – A valve to a leaking private natural gas well was turned off Thursday morning and residents were allowed to return to their homes, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said.

But the owner of the well will be responsible for repairs to the leaking well head, the sheriff said.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is trying to locate a company that will repair the well head.

Abdalla said the only person who remains affected by the leaking well is the homeowner. The elderly woman used the gas from the well for her furnace, he said. Abdalla noted the well is more than 100 years old.

The well is located across from the entrance to 84 Lumber at the bottom of state Route 152 on Stewart Street. The road was closed Thursday morning and 30 residents were evacuated to the Stratton Village Building. The families were out of their homes for about four hours.

“It’s a direct tap well, so that means it’s a constant feed. We had to let it purge itself completely out before we could even really get close to it to do anything,” said Kevin Gray, assistant chief of the Empire Volunteer Fire Department.

Firefighters were checking for gas levels in homes as the residents were allowed to come back and discovered a gas leak in the service line in the basement of a house, Abdalla said. The homeowner said she thought the smell was sewer gas, he said.