This last summer saw several gas line breaks disrupt neighbourhoods around Leduc, with a couple being so large that blocks of homes had to be evacuated in case of an explosion. Thankfully, due to quick response times, the professionalism of Leduc's emergency services and Alta Gas lines-workers, plus a little bit of luck, no disasters befell the City. However, this luck cannot hold indefinitely. This is the message that the City, and in particular, Fire Chief Ernie Polsom, would like to get across very clearly. "The number one thing that could prevent these issues would be to call before you dig." said Chief Polsom. "A simple call to Alberta 1 Call to locate a line could prevent a problem before it happens."
Most of the gas line breaks that occurred this year were caused by construction companies, but Chief Polsom was quick to state that typically the construction trades in Leduc work very safely, and their safety record is quite enviable. However, it was discovered upon investigation, that one of the companies that struck a line this summer, causing one of the large breaks, did not do a line locate before beginning to dig.
"Currently, there are no fines for breaking a line." said Chief Polsom, "But the City is looking into mechanisms for cost recovery on this type of situation. It is pretty hard to justify causing this sort of hardship and stress for families that suddenly have to evacuate their homes, and to take up the time of emergency service personnel and equipment because you didn't make a free phone call."
"And just because you know where the lines are doesn't mean you don't need to be careful!" stated Chief Polsom. This was proven by the most recent break which occurred in October, pretty much right in front of City Hall. "The construction company did a line check, but in the older areas the maps might not be that accurate as to how deep the lines are buried." shared the Chief. "They thought the line was about 12 inches below the surface but apparently it was only about 3 inches down. They hit the line with practically the first strike of the pick axe. The leak was reported immediately, and quickly repaired without issue, but it goes to show that you can't assume that lines are set in deep anywhere."
Chief Polsom informed us that the amount of line breaks Leduc experienced this year were not above normal, but the size of a couple of them were definitely larger than we've typically seen. He stated that he was pleased about the higher level of awareness that the public had regarding these events, as it can help to improve overall safety practices.
"Alberta 1 Call generally responds to line locate requests very quickly." said Chief Polsom. "Give them a call a couple of days ahead, that's generally all it takes, and it is a free service. So if you are building a house, digging a post hole, or planting a shrub, give them a call first. The risk of injury or death from striking a gas line is very high but completely preventable with a little bit of planning."
So tuck this phone number away for all your 2013 spring and summer project plans, and stay safe! Alberta 1 Call 1-800-242-3447.