BEATRICE - The City of Beatrice issued a notice to citizens Thursday about a gasoline leak affecting homes in an area of west Beatrice. Officials said it appeared to be a gasoline leak coming through the sewer of homes in the area of Court Street, Garden Street, and Graham Street and some homes had to be evacuated along Graham and near Court Street.

Beatrice Fire Captain Craig Fisher says fire, police, wastewater and state environmental officials were all sent to the scene. Black Hills Energy was at 115 Graham Street conducting investigation into a gas smell and found that gasoline was coming up through a floor drain.  Fisher said two other homes had a similar hazard.

"We evacuated those residents. We had Beatrice Police Department and our personnel went door-to-door checking to see if anybody else had any problems or anybody was at home. We had the street department there, we had the sanitation department there... Gage County Emergency Management and also the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy came down to investigate, and mitigate the hazard."

Residents were cautioned that If they smelled gasoline in their residence, to leave the area immediately and call Southeast Communications Center. Following an extensive search including the use of gas monitors, officials were not able to determine exactly where the gasoline was entering the sanitation system.

"Slowly it got better...we did a ventilation of the sewer lines and also the sanitation department had a truck with a lot of water on it. We did a big flush to it.....of course, its not going into the river. It's going to the sewer treatment plant, so it is contained, that way."

Fisher said the problem was getting close to presenting an explosion or fire hazard, based on measurements taken at the scene. "The lower explosive limit...when Black Hills was there, it was at 40%...and when we arrived, it had already climbed to 70%.  Of course, we put water in the floor drains because we believed the trap was dry and that's what probably caused the gasoline to enter the basement. We used fans to ventilate to get the fumes out of there, and that helped a lot."

Fisher says officials have not yet been able to identify the cause or the source of the problem, and no one has been cited. Fire officials were on scene for at least three hours, but representatives of other agencies were on scene for as long as five hours. Residents were able to return to their homes.