Gas Safety Concerns Rise After Explosions in South Jackson

Jackson, Mississippi – Months after two gas explosions rocked South Jackson, destroying homes and claiming a woman’s life, concerns about gas safety in the area continue to linger. The incidents, which occurred just three days apart in January, shed light on the urgent need for repairs to the natural gas lines in the Capital City.

The tragedy unfolded when an explosion killed 82-year-old Clara Barbour and left her husband severely injured. De’Keither Stamps, Public Service Commissioner, likened the impact of the explosions to an earthquake, highlighting the destabilizing effect it had on the community. As investigations into the explosions progress, it has become evident that the gas infrastructure in Jackson requires significant attention.

Following the explosions, Atmos Energy identified gas leaks in the area, raising questions about the adequacy of the maintenance and repair protocols. The grading system used by Atmos to categorize gas leaks as Grade One, Two, or Three came under scrutiny, particularly as leaks categorized as non-hazardous turned fatal in these incidents. Stamps emphasized the need for robust policies to ensure the safety of Mississippians in light of these revelations.

The repercussions of the explosions have reverberated throughout Stamps’ term as public service commissioner, underscoring a broader issue with gas leaks in the region. The high volume of calls reporting gas leaks to Jackson police further underscores the magnitude of the problem. While some progress has been made in addressing the leaks, with about 200 repaired by Atmos, concerns persist around the verification of these repairs by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Atmos Energy responded to the concerns by affirming its commitment to safety and outlining significant investments in infrastructure enhancements. Despite the focus on Jackson, Stamps emphasized that gas leak issues extend beyond the city, warranting a statewide approach to pipeline safety and maintenance. Collaboration between the Public Service Commission and Atmos is crucial in ensuring the system’s safety, with residents advised to prioritize safety measures such as reporting gas leaks and calling 811 before digging.

The incidents in South Jackson serve as a stark reminder of the importance of vigilant gas safety practices and proactive maintenance of gas infrastructure. As the community grapples with the aftermath of the explosions, efforts to address underlying safety concerns and prevent future tragedies remain paramount.