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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2011

PSC investigates
Who is at fault for ruptured gas line?

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A backhoe shovel ruptured a gas transmission line last week, but the reason for the mishap is still under investigation.

A construction crew was working on the New York State Thruway last Wednesday, Aug. 10, when a 12-inch, steel pipe carrying natural gas was struck and broken.

Following the rupture, which caused an exploding sound due to the release of pressurized gas, people living in homes along a portion of Schoolhouse Road, including in the Woodlake Apartment complex, were evacuated. Schoolhouse Road has an overpass above the portion of the Thruway where the pipe was damaged, which was between exits 23 and 24.

This week, though the pipe was repaired on Monday, the incident is under investigation by National Grid and the Public Service Commission, to determine whether the line was marked before the construction crew began working.

“A contractor is supposed to call 811, a state hotline, before doing any digging — that is for individual residents, construction companies, anyone who is digging,” said Patrick Stella, a spokesman for National Grid. He said he couldn’t comment on last week’s incident in particular, since it is still under investigation, but he explained the proper procedure to The Enterprise.

There is a not-for-profit organization called Dig Safely New York, and when 811 is called and notified of a project, operators then notify utility companies in the area, which then go out and mark their underground lines.

If transmission lines are found, a utility company will send out a representative to supervise and help with the dig, said Stella. He explained that there are two different types of lines that carry natural gas — transmission lines and distribution lines. Transmission lines are larger, and carry a bulk amount of gas, and distribution lines are smaller, and carry gas to individual locations, such as houses.

If a transmission line is ruptured, it is more dangerous because of the high amount of gas, said Stella, but National Grid shut off the gas flow to that particular pipe after it broke, and, since it was in open air, the gas dissipated quickly.

“Nobody lost gas service during that time,” said Stella. He said he did not know whether the construction crew had requested that the line be marked before the project began.

“It would not be appropriate for the Thruway Authority to comment on this incident, which remains under investigation by the state Public Service Commission,” R. W. Groneman, a public information officer for the Thruway Authority told The Enterprise yesterday.

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