RICHMOND -- Crews have sealed a gas leak that forced an apartment complex to be evacuated and state health department lab employees to shelter in place Wednesday, authorities said.

The three-inch leak was sealed about 11:30 a.m., slightly less than two hours after a construction crew drilled into it, PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said. Complete repairs to the leak were expected to be completed by 3 p.m. Friday, Molica said, and no PG&E customers lost their power, he said.

The Anchorage at Marina Bay Apartments were evacuated after the breech happened about 9:45 a.m., Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks said. The leak happened in the area of Marina Bay Parkway, Pierson Avenue and Jetty Drive and caused several streets to be closed, including the intersection of Marina Bay Parkway and Cutting Boulevard.

PG&E crews were on the scene within 10 minutes, Molica said. The work crew was not affiliated with PG&E, he said. The contractor, which according to Banks was Pitcher Drilling out of Palo Alto, will be billed for the repairs, Molica said.

"PG&E did a fantastic job," Banks said. "They were right on top of it."

At the scene about 11 a.m., Richmond Police Capt. Mark Gagan looked at the broken pipe from about 100 yards away. The odor of gas was strong, and the gas visibly gathered in a translucent gray plume.

More than a dozen firefighters and other emergency personnel scrambled around the scene, surveying options.

"The gas is blowing about 30 to 40 feet into the air, it's been doing that for over an hour," Gagan said.


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Residents of the nearby Anchorage at Marina Bay complex were evacuated. Several stood just outside the evacuation perimeter and watched as fire fighters and other crews worked to secure the area.

"I heard a kind of hissing noise. I thought someone's water was on or something," said resident Amy Dellefield, who lives in one of the units near the rupture. "I looked out the window and I saw construction guys running away, so I knew something serious happened."

Dellefield said residents in the Marina Bay community are overwhelmingly supportive of the underpass construction project, which will allow traffic to bypass lengthy cargo trains that frequently pass and cut off Marina Bay from the city and nearby freeway.

But the size and scope of the project, including massive drilling rigs and other heavy equipment, have been concerns so close to their homes.

"It's a lot to have to deal with for the next two years," Dellefield said. "This is a heavy-duty construction zone right outside my window. When the big drills get going, our houses are shaking."

Employees at the Environmental Health Lab Branch were advised to shelter in place, and other residents south of the leak also were told to stay inside, Banks said.

A community warning was expected to go out through the Contra Costa Community Warning System, Banks said. That system experienced a glitch Wednesday when a gas leak forced the evacuation of a 3-block area in Alamo.

Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH. Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 and follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers.