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Natural gas line breaks common, utility says

Published On: Mar 26 2014 09:41:22 PM CDT

A spokesman with Colorado Springs Utilities says breaks happen more often than we realize.

We've seen the turmoil and inconvenience a broken natural gas line can cause, but a spokesman for Colorado Springs Utilities said similar breaks happen more often than we realize.

CSU spokesman Steve Berry said breaks that are as disruptive as the one Tuesday near the intersection of Garden of the Gods Road and Chestnut Street are rare, but many smaller breaks happen nearly every day.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 has reported on six CSU gas line breaks since the middle of last summer.  In most instances, breaks occur when the lines are accidentally struck by a crew from another utility or a construction company that is digging to install or repair an existing underground line.

CSU said a worker with AA Construction hit the CSU line Tuesday while digging to prepare for a future cable installation.  The break knocked out service for four hours and repairs caused major traffic headaches that continued until Wednesday evening.

The worker, Berry said, called CSU's 811 line for advance locating of existing utility lines, but that often only a matter of inches can make a difference when digging.

"Yeah, I think he did everything that he could have done," Berry said.  "There were some detail things that go with experience, and other factors that contributed to missing the locate and hitting the pipe.  But generally, they try to do the right thing."

Berry said crews that have more training and experience are less likely to break utility lines, but added that such training and experience isn't required when digging.

"Locating has become infinitely better over the years but it's not an exact science," he said.  "Especially in public rights of way where there's a lot of abandoned pipes underground and other infrastructure underground."

Berry said CSU responds to an 811 call with a personal visit within three days to locate pre-existing utility lines at a work site.  He asks that anyone who plans to dig -- whether a business installing infrastructure or a homeowner doing a landscaping job -- call 811.

"People would be surprised at how close to the surface utility lines are," he said.

Berry said CSU will fine AA Construction for Tuesday's break.  While he didn't reveal the amount of the fine, he said it can range "from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars."

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