Workers began unearthing gas pipes at the Good Hope Homes project in northern Montgomery County yesterday in an effort to find and repair leaks that forced 75 persons to evacuate the middle and low-income development Friday.

O.D. Field, the president of the proect's board of directors, said that the 12 families displaced by the gas leaks could be back in their homes by "Monday or Tuesday, if everything goes smoothly."

First, however, workers must find the precise location of four gas leaks monitored yesterday morning near the four-year-old town houses -- and replace lengths of pipe to seal them. By mid-afternoon, no leaks had been pinpointed by workers.

Field said the project's directors had not decided whether the entire underground gas system would have to be replaced -- a step that would cost an estimated $200,000.

"We'll just have to wait and see if more leaks develop in the next few weeks and whether we can stop them," he said.

As workers began digging into the ground in front of the 12 vacated town houses yesterday, a new sign went up on the doors of the empty units. It listed hours of 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. when residents could breifly enter their homes during the next week, and warned: "If you enter these premises other than these specified hours you will be arrested."

Field said that all of the families displaced by the leaks Friday had found lodging with relatives or friends.