Gas leak less than a mile from new Aberdeen Elementary School shows perils of building in an industrial zone

Natural gas continues to leak from a ruptured line in Aberdeen about eight-tenths of a mile from the new Aberdeen Elementary School, whose location has concerned many parents because it is in an industrial area.

There have been no evacuations or injuries, according to town Fire Chief Phillip Richardson, but NC Highway 5 is closed. Contractors digging in the area hit the line, causing the breach, Richardson said.

Children are attending classes in-person. Moore County Schools spokeswoman Catherine Murphy said the leak and road closure will affect dismissal. Parents are being detoured to access the school from Sand Pit Road. Bus schedules are also delayed.

Policy Watch reported about the controversy last year after parents and citizen watchdogs became concerned because the school — whose 600-800 students are from predominantly low-income neighborhoods or communities of color — would be built near a Superfund site.

The school opened this fall.

Although environmental regulators say the site, which was contaminated with pesticides, no longer poses health risks, the groundwater is contaminated. The school had to connect to a public water system before opening, and no groundwater can be used, even for irrigation.

The Superfund site isn’t the only environmental issue in the neighborhood. Based on neighborhood visits and environmental databases, Policy Watch reported that there are at least 10 air pollution sources within a mile of the school. These include several factories, a large propane sales operation, railroad, and a landfill, as well as significant diesel truck traffic.

Two old Aberdeen schools (right side of map) were combined for a new school that opened this year. However, it is near at least 10 sources of air pollution. Today there was a gas leak about eight-tenths of a mile southeast of the school. (File map: Lisa Sorg)

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