Potential gas leak?
July 11, 2022 9:05 AM   Subscribe

On our street, many lawns have dead grass both on the lawns and the treelawns. There are dozens I counted today. Is this a potential gas leak? What could be the cause?

I’m in process of contacting our natural gas company. You can see pictures here of some of the yards: https://imgur.com/a/tEZBqJl

They’re all square patches with matching sections near the street. The consistency is kind of startling. My immediate thought is shared infrastructure underground, likely gas piping. What could it be?

And how else would you address? I’d like to email my city council rep after I talk to the natural gas company.
posted by glaucon to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
They could be heat damage in shallow or differently-draining soil. Archaeologists use that to find things underground, and the marks sometimes only show in unusually dry or hot weather.

Other evidence for this: think of how gas diffuses - what shape leak would have such tidy square corners when the gas cloud intersects with the surface?
posted by clew at 9:15 AM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Not a gas leak. Unless the pipe was leaking at literally every yard, and the odds of that are next to zero (and you'd easily smell it).
posted by hwyengr at 9:25 AM on July 11, 2022 [11 favorites]

While I don't think it's common, sometimes utility covers have a recess which allows them to hold a patch of turf a couple of inches deep. It's a way of concealing rarely-used covers. It's quite likely that the turf on such a cover wouldn't be as resilient as the rest of the lawn in dry weather.
posted by pipeski at 9:25 AM on July 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Could it be a different type of grass/sod that was installed over installation/construction?

My neighbor has two types of sod in his yard and it gets patchy at times.
posted by jraz at 9:26 AM on July 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

I don't see anything special about those patches. You can stick a metal stick in them and see if you hit anything. If you don't hit anything within like 6 inches, then it's just dead grass due to lack of watering. Maybe more direct sun in those areas or maybe a grass disease or pest is hitting those patches.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2022

Best answer: Looks to me like sun damage from a reflected surface like a window on a house. However - gas leaks kill plants, and if you suspect gas the second thing I would check is if the service in this area is still using cast iron pipes. If the service is very old it may still be using cast and that leaks gas. If it's cast then the utility company needs to replace it - accept no other answer for that problem. A failing cast iron pipe will not be just leaking at a single failure point - it can be along the the entire run of the service line.

The first thing is trust your gut on reporting leaking gas - call in and report it. I just called in one of my neighbor's house earlier this year and it prompted a survey of the whole neighborhood for all of our service connections. My house ended up getting a new doodad as did several others. At a previous work place I called in the same rough location multiple times.

In this case it likely isn't gas, but even if the chance it is is only very slight I would get it checked. Did I get to witness a natural gas leak & fire at a young and impressionable age? yes, yes I did.
posted by zenon at 9:33 AM on July 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

This just looks like normal damage from (1) not enough water combined with (2) too much direct sunlight.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:08 AM on July 11, 2022

Response by poster: I agree that alone they appear to be from just poor watering, but the many lawns that have this repeating pattern on a consistent section of property points to something else, in my mind
posted by glaucon at 10:57 AM on July 11, 2022

Just brainstorming , but... are these maybe spots where people put their garbage or recycling containers out and perhaps there was a really hot day recently that burnt the spots? (Every pic you showed us was by the street... are the spots spread throughout the lawns?)

Or maybe were covered and missed the last decent rain, especially if some hot weather followed? (To me, that last one almost looks like a vehicle was parked there, not sure if it's really wide enough.)

If it's most houses, I just can't imagine it being firework-related.

I agree that the spots look rather strange - and oddly located - in otherwise moderately green lawns.
posted by stormyteal at 11:16 AM on July 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Do the patches line up with the water meters of each house? Our block had all of our water lines replaced a few years ago, and the seed the city used after digging up and refilling the soil isn't quite as hardy as the existing lawns. The yards here look almost identical to yours.
posted by erpava at 11:29 AM on July 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Could a vehicle have parked up and idled on there a while? A truck/car with engine (and thus catalytic converter) and A/C running could easily overheat grass
posted by scruss at 11:35 AM on July 11, 2022

You would say to yourself “boy there’s a gas leak” if there was a gas leak.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:33 PM on July 12, 2022

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