At approximately 5:25 p.m. on Thursday (June 3), a contractor digging in the Oakwood neighborhood of East Lansing near the Hannah Community Center hit an apparently unmarked natural gas main line, resulting in a temporary and somewhat panicked evacuation of residents in the area.
In response to questions from ELi on Friday, Consumers Energy spokesperson Terry DeDoes explained, “A contractor installing fiber optic conduit damaged an underground 2-inch steel, medium pressure natural gas main. Our records indicate the contractor was 2D Aerial Cable Contractors.”
The rupture occurred near the intersection of Fern and Forest Streets in the residential Oakwood Historic Neighborhood. When the gas line was ruptured, the people working for the cable company contacted emergency personnel and ran up and down the blocks banging on doors and advising people to evacuate.
One installer quickly warned a resident against starting her car, lest it cause a spark that could ignite an explosion. The amount of gas leaking out of the pipe was significant, as the tell-tale “gas smell” could be easily picked up a block away. (Natural gas is actually odorless, but a scent is added to help humans detect gas leaks.)
Personnel for 2D Aerial Cable confirmed for ELi on Friday that it was their crew that had been digging, laying cable for Zayo, when the line was accidentally ruptured.
A worker for the contractor told ELi that their team appropriately called MISS DIG, the system used to advise contractors of how to dig safely, in advance of the work – in fact, they requested repeated markings from MISS DIG – but that the gas line was not properly marked.
According to DeDoes, at 6:17 p.m., Consumers Energy was notified. Meanwhile, DeDoes says, “The fire department did a precautionary evacuation of nearby houses, but residents soon were able to return when our service workers checked for the presence of gas and found the homes were safe.”
ELPD did not appear to respond to the emergency scene, but sent out a Nixle alert at 6:37 p.m. (That alert misidentified the intersection as being Forest St. and Oakhill Ave., a block away from the gas line rupture.)
Fire department personnel remained on the scene with an ELFD fire truck parked on Sunset Ln. for several hours as a safety measure.
Consumers Energy personnel’s emergency response included checking the basements of nearby houses to see if any gas was coming up through the basement floor drains that are common in houses in that area. They did not find any evidence of gas making its way into homes through the floor drains via the hundred-year-old combined sewer system.
By 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, DeDoes says, “Our gas distribution crews were able to stop gas from escaping from the damaged section.”
All of Friday, crews were working “on a permanent repair to install a new gas main to replace the damaged section.” Additional repairs are expected in the coming days.
No one has been reported injured from the event.
Disclosure: Alice Dreger’s house is one block from the line that was ruptured. She evacuated and her basement was one of those checked by emergency personnel for gas.