Work continues on site of French Quarter sewer explosions as investigations continue

Methane Concerns in the Quarter

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Entergy crews were back on Dauphine Street today at the spot where four manhole covers blew up three weeks ago. They have been making repairs, as they try and figure what caused the explosion that also ignited two cars near the heart of the French Quarter.

Dauphine St is now fully re-opened but Entergy work crews remained on the scene where four manhole covers flew into the air on Dec. 16.

“I heard a lot of loud explosions, but I thought it was gunfire,” French Quarter resident Eric Hatten said.

The explosions ignited two cars and created concern for French Quarter property owners.

“We are looking for assurances from the city that a disaster like this can’t happen again, especially when it happens at any hours of the day and we could witness true tragedies,” said Erin Holmes with Vieux Carre Property Owners and Associates.

The blast happened around 5 a.m. and was blamed on an underground buildup of sewer gas, perhaps from a leak.

“The methane gas that was produced from the sewer was ignited by an electrical arc and that’s what caused the explosion,” New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said.

Even though on the day of the explosion the city's fire chief blamed a methane buildup for the explosion, the sewerage and water board today put out a statement saying their investigation continues.

“To date, our investigations have shown no evidence of a sewer leak causing the explosion,” a Sewerage and Water Board spokesperson said.

Preservationists say they are worried about some of the oldest buildings in the country and the millions who visit.

“The concerns are this architecture can’t be replaced, and as we move into carnival we will see a lot of foot traffic and so the importance of the city is so apparent...and also the safety of our residents and business owners,” Holmes said.

And while the work continues beneath the French Quarter, many await word on what steps are being taken to prevent more explosions in the future.

We reached out to Entergy for comment as well and were told that their investigation is also continuing, along with the City and Sewerage and Water Board.

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