Safety concerns delay excavation at Durham explosion site

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Safety concerns at the site of the Durham gas explosion are delaying a search for clues.

Crews were supposed to start excavating the gas pipeline Tuesday as part of the investigation into what caused the deadly explosion.

But the walls of the damaged, white building next to the Prescient building are not stable, so crews cannot yet start digging.

Officials with the NC Utilities Commission said it's unsafe. Dust, debris and the threat of asbestos have pushed the excavation project to Thursday.

The delay is so the owners of these destroyed properties will have time to fix and clean up these issues.

The City said it is coordinating with those owners to expedite the clean-up.

Nearly two weeks after the explosion rocked downtown Durham, the NC Utilities Commission told ABC11 that the excavation of the gas line will be a slow and deliberate process.

It will include the use of lasers examining the ground below and is a project that could take several days to complete.

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The delay comes as crews clean up the vacant parking lot behind the explosion site; spaces once used by now-condemned restaurants.

"We need to get them back up and running because it's good for all of us," said Gene Devine, the owner of Devine's on Main Street across from Brightleaf Square.

The rest of Brightleaf Square is open for business.

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Devine said customers are slowly but surely making their way back.

"We had some business here, which is good," Devine said.

After the explosion, Devine said he lost 30 percent of his customers.

This week, the city plans to announce new parking alternatives in Brightleaf Square, since the parking lot by the explosion site is closed.
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