Technician Performs Tests To Check Propane Pipes - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/13/07-Smith County

Technician Performs Tests To Check Propane Pipes

The funeral service for a retired East Texas teacher that died in a home explosion this week has been set for Friday. Molly Ferguson, 76, died from her injuries in the blast Tuesday at her home near Chapel Hill.

Tests by investigators found a propane gas leak that built up over time, and was then triggered when the air conditioner kicked on. Fire marshals say it's a rare occurrence that can happen in any home, but there are precautions you can take.

For about 50 dollars, you can get a service technician like Mike Melburn to come out to your home and perform certain tests.

"If that needle does not fall in three minutes, there's no leak. If it does fall, we have a leak," Mike, who works for Mallory's Propane Company, points out.

It's appropriately called a "leak test." Mike uses a device called a manometer to measure the pressure of propane coming out of the tank.

"No leak is acceptable, so if it drops half of an inch of column in 5 minutes, that's a leak we've got to find and fix it," he explains.

Sure enough, the needle drops and Mike now knows he has a leak somewhere.

"It's a very small leak, so we're going to have to spend some time investigating and, like I said, isolated just different parts of the system." he says.

It's a tedious process of elimination. He goes inside to turn off the pipe's valves and then back to the test.

"If we get a drop, then we know it's in the main line feeding those appliances and we know to start there looking for it."

There's still a leak, so now it's under the house to check the pipes using a soap solution, looking for bubbles.  

"If you see it bubbling up like, there's a leak," he says while spraying the soap solution.

It's a puzzle of sorts for Mike, but one he takes very seriously because if any home has a leak...

"...anything that causes an electric spark to happen could ignite it," he says.

Fire marshals recommend homes be tested for pipe leaks about every five years.

It's the law, however, for schools to be tested every two years.

We want to thank Mallory's Propane for helping us with this report. We also should mention Mallory's was not the company who serviced Molly Ferguson's propane supply.

Tracy watler, Reporting

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