FINLEYVILLE (KDKA) — They’re an couple enjoying their retirement years in Finleyville, Washington County, but a gas leak has driven them from their home.
It’s been a month and half, but the continuing threat of a gas explosion has kept Joyce and Harry Hill out of their house. And nobody knows where the gas is coming from.
Joyce Hill: “We’ve lived here almost 38 years.”
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “But you can’t go inside?”
Imagine calling a place home for most of your adult life and not being able to live in it. The mortgage is paid off and the taxes are up to date. It’s just that it’s in danger of exploding any time.
“Not being able to sleep, eat,” said Joyce. “All we think about is our house.”
It’s now 48 days and counting since Harry and Joyce were told to get out. Back on Jan. 27, a gas explosion blew the lid off the Hills’ cistern and through their deck.
Peoples Gas put them up in a motel for the next three weeks, but couldn’t find the source. The gas company did determine the gas was not theirs.
“We drilled in their basement, we vented their home, and very quickly we found it wasn’t the quality of utility pipeline gas. There’s a vast difference between that and gas migrating from any place,” Barry Kukovich, of People’s Gas.
Peoples Gas installed a vent to syphon off the gas and prevent an explosion. Then, they alerted the Department of Environmental Protection, which says the gas seems to be migrating through the ground.
“It’s not just one possible source, there are several, and we have been spending just a lot of time trying to run down where this gas is coming from,” a DEP representative said.
Pennsylvania is riddled with shallow gas wells dating back several decades, and after determining that a nearby abandoned gas well was not the source, the DEP set it sights on three active wells.
The department has contacted their three separate owners to conduct tests and says it’s trying to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
“This is something we’ve taken very seriously because we don’t want to see anyone out of their house. It’s a tragedy,” the DEP official said.
But now the Hills have their possessions scattered over three different houses and are currently staying at the home of Joyce’s brother. She says their lives have become a nightmare from which they can’t awaken.
“You wake up or jump up in the middle of the night and you see where you are and say, ‘This happened, this really happened,’ because we’re not home; we’re somewhere else,” she said.
But the source of the leak remains unknown, and the Hills are still in exile, looking for answers and the day when they finally can return home.