Gas leak forces road closure, home evacuation

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, April 28, 2012

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A gas leak along Farm Road 920 a mile north of Boonsville shut down the road in both directions for two hours Thursday morning.

Firefighters responded to reports of a haze and the smell of natural gas just after 7 a.m. and arrived to find a ruptured gas line.

“Residents in the area said they had been smelling it for (days),” Boonsville Fire Captain Don Zaidle said. “But with today’s atmospheric conditions – cooler temperatures, zero wind – residents could see a misty fog which was the cold gas coming out of a pipe.”

Enbridge Inc. personnel arrived on scene within 30 minutes to take the necessary action.

“During the final steps in rendering the area safe, we shut down the compressor station and began a blow down – highly pressurized air against the line to blow the gas out so that it is clear and work can be done on it,” Zaidle said. “That was very loud. The closest thing I can compare it to is an aircraft engine at a close range. It could be heard for many miles.”

The process took a little over an hour, and the road was reopened at 9:09 a.m.

“Once the gas was blown out, the area was rendered safe,” Zaidle said. “[Enbridge personnel] will dig it up and identify whether it’s a point-specific problem or general erosion of the line and replace what is deemed necessary. It could be due to a large rock abrasion caused by the movement of a tree root. Or it could be moisture accumulation or the ground shifting.

“It could be any number of causes – any one thing or a combination of things, natural processes.”

Traffic was rerouted around the three-mile stretch of the road onto nearby county roads, and one residence was evacuated.

The actions deemed necessary Thursday aren’t common, but the fire department, public safety officers and company personnel handled it seamlessly, Zaidle said.

“Usually, these investigations end up being a pop-off valve at a well – something harmless,” he said. “But for every [one call in] 10 or 100, we get a call like this – with the high hazard or potential for catastrophe with the gas settling at a low point. And that point in the road was low.

“All it takes was a spark, a cigarette thrown carelessly out the window – then we’d have a very bad situation.”

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