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Boston gas leaks cause unease among students

Following the discovery of thousands of Boston gas leaks and a gas pipe explosion in Springfield on Nov. 23, a number of Allston residents said they are concerned about the gas leaks found in the city.

There are about 3,356 methane gas leaks throughout Boston’s underground pipelines, according to a Nov. 19 study from Boston University and Duke University professors.

Nathan Phillips, a professor at Boston University in the department of earth and environment, and his crew traveled across all 785-road miles in Boston to expose the potential dangers of the maturing infrastructure of the city, according to the study.

He used a spectrometer and mobile GPS to measure the levels of methane gas in the air and to map the location of the leak, according to the study.

Courtney Carroll, a BU senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, did a few surveys of gas leaks with Phillips.

“We used an instrument that measures the gas leaks and I was able to see how the gas levels spiked,” Carroll said.

Jimmy Blackmon, a junior in the College of Communication and resident of Allston, said he heard about the Springfield explosion and said it is not comforting to know there are more than 3,000 gas leaks in Boston.

“The other day someone told me that they smelled gas in the building, which is pretty scary,” Blackmon said.

Carroll said the leaks they surveyed were not explosive.

“The leaks that we found weren’t explosive leaks, but you would want to know if you lived in that area,” she said.

Phillips classified a methane leak as a value of gas in the air that is over 2.50 parts per million. He identified 3,356 methane leaks that exceeded that value, with the highest concentration at 28.6 parts per million, the study said.

Throughout the city, 435 methane leaks exceeded five parts per million and 97 exceeded 10 parts per million, which is considered a hazard to humans and could cause an explosion, the study stated.

Several residents in the Allston area said they are troubled by the gas leaks in Boston because of the Springfield pipe explosion on Nov. 23, which was a result of an employee allegedly putting a hole in an underground pipe.

Ian Blau, a COM sophomore and resident of Allston, said he heard about the gas leaks from his friends and knows this is an issue for Boston.

“I know that Boston has pretty old infrastructure, so it is a little nerve-wracking,” he said.

Blau said he hopes city officials will fix the problem soon so as to prevent more explosions from happening.

Carroll also said these leaks are not surprising because of the age of the city.

“It is not as surprising hearing about all of these leaks when you find out that Boston has one of the oldest infrastructures in the U.S.,” Carroll said.

In the study, researchers said reducing methane leaks would help promote gas safety and save money for the city.

By replacing failing methane pipes, researchers said it would reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere and slow the rate of global warming.

Recommendations for the city include mapping all the gas leaks, which would help the economy, environment and health of everyone, the study stated.

Carroll said city officials need to become more proactive in dealing with leak reports.

“They should do a better job of responding to leaks because sometimes they would just see a report, but if it wasn’t possibly explosive, they just wouldn’t do anything about it,” she said.

Zoe Roos contributed to the reporting of this article.

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