RUSWARP Primary School was closed last Friday after a major gas leak sparked fears of a potential explosion.
Head teacher Tammy Cooper ordered the closure of the school after discovering the strong smell of gas when staff arrived in the morning.
She said: “There’s been an ongoing leak on the railway. We came in this morning and it’s really strong, so taking advice from the gas board we have closed the school.”
The amount of gas in the air was so substantial that any spark at the school could have caused a fire or gas explosion.
“It’s been an ongoing leak for a couple of months and the gas board have been monitoring it. The levels have always been safe, until today.”
However a spokesperson for the gas network refuted this claim, stating that this fault was not known about before last week. The main had been worked on in the past, but at a different location, and a complete repair was carried out at the time.
The leak was so strong the smell of gas remained throughout the day, with some people visiting the village reporting they had developed strong headaches as a result.
Garry Farnhill customer operations area manager for Northern Gas Networks said that he received a number of calls from concerned residents. He added: “We dispatched engineers to investigate the reports within an hour of receiving the first call. On arrival they found that there was a leak on a pipe that lies between the verge of a rail line and Ruswarp CE Primary School’s recreation ground.”
The leak had sprung just behind the school’s climbing wall, and gas engineers set about making the area safe before starting work on a repair.
Repair work was completed in the early hours of Sunday morning, with engineers working across the weekend to replace a 100m section of gas main.
Rail services along the Esk Valley were also disrupted, with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway suspending their services until Monday morning.
Mr Farnhill added: “The gas network is now functioning normally again. We have some remedial work to do on the site of the school playing field, where we were working over the weekend. This will be done as quickly as possible.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience the work may have caused but there are no short-cuts when it comes to gas safety, we always remain on site until we are certain that the network is safe and completely secured.”
He thanked those who reported this incident to the National Gas Emergency number, 0800 111 999, and reminded anyone else who smells gas that they should do the same.