Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oops on OUPS!

Natural gas line puncture wreaks havoc in Medina
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Medina - A punctured natural gas line turned a hospital tree lawn into a torch licking at the Monday morning sky.

The accident closed Ohio 18 for six hours; knocked out electric, gas and cable television service to thousands; and closed three schools with about 3,000 students. Ohio officials say such breaks occur frequently, although few result in the kinds of fires like the one they saw about 8:30 a.m. in Medina.

An auger operator from Perrem Electric Co. of Wadsworth was drilling a hole for a traffic signal pole in front of Medina General Hospital when the auger pierced a Columbia Gas of Ohio line, sending fire 50 feet into the sky.

Medina Assistant Fire Chief Mark Crumley said the worker got out of the truck before the gas burst into flames. No one was injured. Crumley said it was not clear why the auger operator drilled into the line.

John Novak, vice president of the Ohio Utility Protection Service, said Perrem Electric contacted his agency more than 48 hours before drilling, as is required by law. The nonprofit service then contacted all the affected utilities so they could mark the area where the excavator planned to dig.

Columbia Gas spokesman Ray Frank said his company was not ready to assess blame for the gas line break. He said the company had begun its own investigation.

Novak said Ohio's gas-line laws are "lax." The Ohio Utility Protection Service spent $500,000 in an unsuccessful lobbying effort a few years ago to put teeth into a law that doesn't penalize excavators from ignoring the "call before you dig" law or utilities that don't subscribe to the service.

In Monday's fire, two Perrem Electric trucks valued at $200,000 were destroyed.
A FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman said 2,100 customers temporarily lost power.

"It was really amazing how well things went," Whole Story.....


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