Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, July 30, 2001

Broken line leaves Westgate residents without natural gas, few evacuated

By Patrice Waldron


Winsted residents living in the Westgate subdivision received a surprise last Monday. Around 10 a. m. the Winsted Fire Department was called to the scene, Casey's was closed, and a few area residents were evacuated.

A natural gas line was hit, and broke during excavation.

Fire department personnel, dressed in complete gear, masks and helmets went into the hole where the broken line was.

An attempt was made to find a way to stop the flow of leaking gas. The fire fighters improvised, using items gleaned from Casey's. Their attempt failed, but a representative from Minnegasco was quick to arrive, and brought with him the necessary clamp to shut down the line.

Residents near the intersection of Westgate Dr. and County Road 1 were advised to leave their homes. The children at the Harwood day care, located on the corner of Westgate Drive and County Road 1 were evacuated to the Winsted fire hall.

The excavation crew was working to expose the water main when the break occurred.

It was estimated that the survey mark was located nine feet west of where the actual pipe location.

Breaking a line is something that happens every now and then, explained Greg Johnson, of Randy Kramer Excavating.

Unlike years ago, today there are many different lines buried underneath the street. There are gas lines, water lines, television cable, and phone lines.

When surveyors mark the lines, a different, somewhat standard color is used for each. For example, in the McLeod County Road 1 project, pink marks indicate where the final road position is, yellow indicates natural gas, and so on.

It is not quite clear how it happened that the survey mark and the position of the pipe in the ground didn't match.

Around 12:30 p.m. the crew from Minnegasco arrived. The location of the gas line, in relation to the survey marker, was documented, measured, and various photos were taken.

"We are primarily concerned with safety. We need to keep people safe when there is an incident such as this," Jim Zilka, field supervisor for Minnegasco.

Also involved at the scene was Kevin Mathews, McLeod County Emergency Management Director. Mathews learned of the situation, and, at the request of Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer, arrived on the scene, ready to provide whatever assistance.

Part of Mathew's job, aside from collecting information, is to remain at the scene until whatever problem that caused the emergency is resolved.

Fire fighters distributed notices to Westgate residents explaining the situation.

They explained the situation to those at home, and left notices for residents, explaining that Minnegasco work crews would be by to light appliance pilot lights once everything was back to normal.

Almost immediately, after the Minnegasco crew replaced the section of broken pipe, the excavation crew was back to finish the job.

The crew was working in that area to insulate the water main. The road grade is being lowered, as part of the project.

With the road surface being lowered, the water pipes are being covered with sheets of insulation, and covered again. The pipes are insulated to reduce the risk of the water main freezing and breaking.

Along with putting the public at risk, another problem is the delay caused by the loss of working time. The delay in not finishing one project causes everything which follows to be delayed.

Just as one error can lead to delays, the errors of one, can lead to other problems. This was surely the case with the miss-marked gas line.

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