Freeport families evacuated in gas leak

FREEPORT – Some families are staying away from their homes the past few evenings as their property is inspected after a report of a gas leak from two old wells in the area.

Erin Strouse, Ohio EPA spokesperson, confirmed that Tuesday at noon their department was contacted through their spill hotline regarding a suspected oil and gas leak at Westchester and South Road and Atkinson Creek Road. The wells are owned by Tipka Energy and Development. Strauss said her office was working from an initial, as yet unverified, pollution indicator report.

The call was turned over to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, since they have jurisdiction.

Matt Eiselstein, spokesperson for ODNR, confirmed that they were called in by the well’s operator, who reported an odor and contacted property owners to advise them to leave. Eiselstein said the problem is believed to be a leaky gas line in a 30-year-old conventional well. The leak is in a local line running from the well to a home. He believes two homes were evacuated. He said the smell was being dissipated with salt water dousings, and operations to plug the well had already been underway.

A resident who prefers to remain anonymous contacted the Times Leader, indicating that his family was contacted by Tipka, who offered to pay for their stay at a hotel while the wells were closed. He said the wells have been a long-standing problem, and the recent odors were overwhelming.

“If you were there today, you could have choked.”

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@