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Placer County Continues Efforts On Propane Leaks In Donner Community

April 06, 2011

Truckee Fire Protection District, and Placer County, are continuing to work on remediating leaking propane lines in the Serene Lakes area near Donner Summit. Countywide, the number of sites with gas leaks and sites contaminated by propane that has migrated from a neighbor’s residence, and abated leaks is 21. The Serene Lakes area contains 18 of those identified sites.

Officials expect the situation to remain active and new leaks are regularly being detected. Warming weather in the past week has helped to dissipate the propane vapor that has leaked into the adjoining snowpack. Thawing and freezing snow causes the snow to crust over making it harder for the propane to find a pathway out of the snowpack. Propane vapor is heavier than air and seeks the path of least resistance while flowing downhill just like water would.

“I’m pleased with the response from the Placer County Environmental Health Department, Office of Emergency Services and Sheriff’s Office, and their cooperative effort with the Truckee Fire Protection District and other neighboring agencies in remedying a serious and difficult situation,” said Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, whose Fifth District includes the Serene Lakes area. “When these incidents are resolved, we will need to take a look at future actions that can prevent this situation from recurring.”

The weight of an extraordinary snowpack this year has damaged pipes, valves, regulators and tanks, which has led to leaks. While there are no street closures currently in effect, there are individual residences that have been closed off with snow berms and entry is prohibited until propane levels dissipate.

Accessing buried propane tanks has proven a challenge. The use of snow blowers, front loaders and snow plows can be problematic.

Anyone who smells propane or natural gas inside or outside a building should call 911. They also should avoid smoking, starting engines or motors, turning on cooking appliances, using heating-air conditioning systems or using other ignition sources if they smell propane or natural gas. They should also avoid any activity that can create a spark that might ignite propane. Even flipping on a light switch can create an ignition source.

Anyone smelling propane or natural gas inside or outside of a building should call 911and avoid any activity that can create a spark that might ignite propane. Avoid smoking, starting engines or motors, turning on cooking appliances, using heating/air conditioning systems or using other ignition sources if propane or natural gas is smelled. Safety tips for the proper care of propane tanks during severe weather are on the county website by clicking this link: Safety Tips.

Placer County will issue weekly updates on the situation.

Attached below is a map of locations of active sites.

An updated aerial map of the location of active propane sites in Serene Lakes.

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