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Neighbors call News 5 for help after dealing with gas leak for a month

Sheffield Village natural gas leak
Posted at 8:26 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 23:16:58-04

SHEFFIELD VILLAGE, Ohio — Neighbors in Sheffield Village will soon find some relief from a gas leak that’s been plaguing their road for more than a month, after News 5 took action to get results from the gas company.

Mike Schilens lives on French Creek Road, next door to a house with a gas leak. The smell of the additive in the natural gas permeated the air Wednesday afternoon, and hissing could be heard as the leaking gas escaped from beneath a small yellow flag planted in the grass.

"It’s getting to be outrageous,” Schilens said. “The smell is horrible. We cannot open our windows at all.”

Schilens said he and his neighbors are concerned about their health as this gas leak continues.

“I have somebody that lives with me that’s on oxygen, and I’m very worried about her,” Schilens said.

Schilens has called the mayor, fire department and Columbia Gas of Ohio multiple times to get answers about the leak and when it would be repaired, but neither he nor Mayor John D. Hunter has gotten any answers.

“I have residents calling me that got health conditions,” Hunter, who is also the safety director for the village, said. “They’re on oxygen, and they can’t open their windows. They can’t go out to their cars.”

Schilens said Columbia Gas workers had been out to flag the area where the leak was occurring “and then that’s all they do.”

“They come back once every other, maybe, couple weeks and they check on it,” Schilens said. “I’ve seen them out here on the road. They stop alongside the road, the guys come out, they step over here to the side of the road and then they get back in the vehicle and leave. Nothing has been done.”

Hunter said the calls from neighbors began coming in on April 24 and that the village had received 11 calls total.

“The smell got worse and worse,” Hunter said, noting the village had contacted the gas company through the fire department. “Our fire department would come out and do their sniffing, saying it’s a hazard and their idea is we call 911. The gas company would come out, they would put up their flags and you can see the flags there in this yard here.”

Sheffield Village firefighters
Sheffield Village firefighters came out Wednesday to check on the gas leak.

On Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Columbia Gas of Ohio said the leak was classified as a grade 2, nonhazardous leak and that the company is allowed 18 months to repair leaks of that grade. However, the spokesperson said the repair was scheduled for June 4.

Hunter said he had not received a timeline as of Wednesday and that he had not heard the June 4 repair date until News 5 told him.

Schilens expressed his frustration with the leak and the lack of response, describing what it was like to live with the smell on a daily basis.

“Ugh. It’s horrible,” Schilens said. “We go to work in the morning, we’re smelling it. We come home at night, we smell it. It’s so overwhelming that we’re afraid of anybody getting hurt, any fires or any explosions around here.”

He also said he’d noticed his gas pressure was down in his house and that he and other neighbors were concerned that their gas bills would go up as a result of the leak.

Columbia Gas worker
A Columbia Gas of Ohio worker uses a gauge to check the natural gas levels.

A Columbia Gas worker came out Wednesday afternoon while the mayor and fire department were there to check what was going on with the leak.

Not long after, the spokesperson for Columbia Gas said the company was expediting the repair and working to be out there on Thursday.