U.S. 29 reopens after gas explosion

TUCKER -- Five days after a build up of methane gas in a utility vault caused an explosion underneath U.S. Highway 29, crews were able to reopen the southbound lanes Thursday evening.

Now, environmental officials are checking for more areas of concern, including nearby homes and businesses, and working on a long-term solution for the gas leaking from a nearby landfill.

Jeff Cown, manager of solid waste management for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, said officials have been aware of landfill gas issues at the now-defunct Crymes Landfill for years.

The landfill, which closed in 1986, has been on the state's hazardous sites inventory for years because of groundwater issues.

In 2001, 13 monitors were given out to members of the community and none have gone off, he said.

The explosion that blasted three manhole covers off the road near Jimmy Carter Boulevard last Sunday left crews having to ventilate the underground vaults for days.

Methane gas, Cown said, is only dangerous if it is confined. Then, the potential for an explosion occurs.

AT&T officials were finally able to keep their vaults clear by loading them with sand and creating a ventilation system to allow the gas to escape, he said.

The long-term solution, Cown explained, would include an active gas extraction system to act as a kind of vacuum. The gas would then be destroyed with a flare.

Officials are exploring the development of a plan to convert the gas to energy, which occurs at 14 landfills throughout the state.

"We believe we are very near a solution," he said.