DENVER — Rock blocks are at almost every corner this Sunday in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood as crews continue to fix gas pipes for the sixth day in a row.
A spokesperson for Xcel said the main gas line was damaged during a non-Xcel Energy project, and water seeped into the pipes. Hollie Velasquez Horvath, Senior Director of State Affairs and Community Relations for Xcel Energy, said the project takes several days to complete because they decided to replace all old pipes with new ones, which will be more reliable for customers in the long run.
Of the roughly 700 homes impacted, Xcel Energy said gas had been restored to more than 200. Xcel said Monday morning crews were making progress but still working to restore gas to all impacted customers.
With the gas shut off, residents like Aribela Arrieta said she and her family have had to take cold showers, and if needed, can heat water with a small electrical stovetop.
"The most important thing is for us to be safe and that’s our concern, that if we need to leave, they should let us know." Arrieta said she grew more concerned after Xcel asked customers in the area to call 9-1-1 or Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-2999 if they detected a Sulphur or "rotten egg" odor inside or near their home, even though the main gas line had been shut off.
Horvath said the odor could come from residue in the pipes and still encourages people to be vigilant and tells the community is not in immediate danger.
For those in the neighborhood who cannot use their natural gas stove-tops, Xcel is providing free meals at their command center stationed at Lorraine Granado Park between 51st and 52nd Avenues on Steele Street. Another command center is stationed at Swansea Elementary at 47th and Columbine.
Food trucks are stationed at both locations between 11:30 A.M. - 1:30 P.M. for lunch and 5:30 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. for dinner. The energy company also directs people affected to the Eagle Point Rec Center at 6060 E. Parkway Drive in Commerce City. Residents should mention they are affected by the Swansea gas outage.
Arrieta remains grateful to the crews who have been working long hours to help restore natural gas to the neighborhood but can't wait for the ordeal to be over.
"These Xcel workers, they’re here day and night and I’m sure they want to be with their families too and they’re working extra hours here, all night long," she said.
For Arrieta, this inconvenience adds to the other challenges people in the community have wanted to change for years.
"I can tell you that it's an about 90% Latino community and for many years it has been neglected," she said.
Arrieta pointed to a bus stop on 48th Avenue as one example of the community not being cared for as much as she would want.
"If you go to other communities, they have a covering from the elements, like rain, snow, hail," she said. "The one [bus stop] across from there, we actually put a couple of chairs there, ourselves, because there's nowhere for people to sit that actually have to take the bus...we’re just grateful that we can sit down somewhere if we have to catch the bus."
Even damaged roads go unrepaired, Arrieta said.
"I mean, it's just a lot of things that are pretty old that need to be updated."
Living in the neighborhood for about 40 years also gives Arrieta a front-row seat to the changes in the community.
"There have been so many," she said. "First of all the home values are going up because of the I-70 project, and because of CSU getting a campus here nearby."
Arrieta said many in the neighborhood are selling their homes or leaving because the rent is getting too expensive.
"90% of this community has been here all their life...so we're set on staying here, we don't want to leave anywhere because this is home," said Arrieta.
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