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Contractor explains challenges of utility digging

By Chris Loveless, Digital Content Director , c.loveless@krdo.com
Published On: Apr 02 2014 11:00:05 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 02 2014 08:18:36 PM CDT

A local contractor explains why installing underground lines can be difficult even when clearly marked.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

A company installing a natural gas line for Colorado Springs Utilities explained how its crew hit underground lines twice in two days at the same work site.

"It's not as easy as the public thinks it is," said Brandon Kochen of Swerdfeger Construction in Pueblo.  "Even when utility lines are clearly marked.  It rarely happens."

Kochen said a crew hit an abandoned gas line Wednesday morning at a work site near the intersection of Tejon and Brookside streets.  The crew also hit a service line to a home Tuesday morning, shutting off gas at that home for a few hours.

Steve Berry of Colorado Springs Utilities said abandoned gas lines are rarely mapped, especially in older sections of the city, and only a small amount of gas escaped.  However, Wednesday's incident forced the temporary closure of Tejon Street near the work site.

Kochen says crews often are uncertain of what they'll find when they start digging.

"In older parts of town like this, there's been so much infrastructure put into the ground and taken out of the ground, that in some cases it's hard to locate," he said.

Kochen said Tuesday's gas line break was due to a faulty wire used to trace the location of the existing service line.

In a separate incident Tuesday, a contractor working on the new Veteran's Affairs clinic off of Centennial Boulevard hit a natural gas line, and last week a contractor hit a gas line on Garden of the Gods Road.

Berry said that in cases where the contractor is at fault, the contractor is required to pay for the repairs. Fines are only assessed when a contractor who hits a line does so after failing to contact utilities to locate and mark any underground utility lines before the work begins.

The crews at Tejon and Centennial won't be fined, Berry said, because they followed procedure and contacted the utility in advance to try and locate existing lines.  He said the Denver-area contractor in last week's incident will be fined.

Click here to read more about Tuesday's gas leaks.

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