Two broken natural gas lines in downtown Paris in the past three weeks have sent workers scurrying for a fix.
Although both incidents ended without injury or evacuations, the proximity in time lends itself to questioning why workers are hitting gas lines at all, who pays the repair bill and what preventative measures are taken to avoid mishaps.
On May 16, a gas line break in downtown Paris closed the 200 block of Bonham Street for several hours while Atmos Energy crews made repairs. Workers had hit a 4-inch unmarked main line, according to Paris Fire Chief Michael Vogel.
And then Monday afternoon, city utility workers struck a ¾ -inch mismarked service line at the corner of North Main Street and Oak Avenue, Paris Public Works Director Jerry McDaniel said. Crews were laying a new water line at the intersection before installing a new concrete approach.
Despite the short time between the two recent breaks, City Manager John Godwin said such mishaps are “relatively rare.”
“Like others who dig, both we and our contractors contact utilities for line locations. Lines are marked prior to digging (with color coded flags) to avoid accidents and damage,” Godwin said. “Sometimes they are incorrectly marked, the line’s actual location is not consistent with mapping, an operator makes an error, etc.”
In recent incidents, the first line was unmarked and the second was mismarked. In both cases, Atmos Energy foot the bill for the repair while the Paris Fire Department sent out a crew to make sure the area was safe while the broken line was being repaired.
“We have a reciprocal agreement with the city of Paris,” Atmos representative Beth Dattomo said. “Atmos Energy does not send the city of Paris a bill if they hit our line, and the city does not send us a bill if we hit their line.”
Dattomo verified in both cases construction crews called beforehand for line locations and immediately called Atmos upon breaking the line.
The gas company representative said the most common cause of outside natural gas leaks is digging or construction that disturbs pipelines.
“If you nick, scrape or dent a natural gas pipeline, call 911, then call Atmos Energy’s emergency number at 866-322-8667 so we can inspect the pipeline and make any needed repairs,” she said. “Even minor damage can weaken a pipeline and lead to a future leak.”