Two natural gas line ruptures snarl traffic in county

Contractors' errors in sidewalk work blamed

May 26, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Utility officials blamed contractors' errors for two unrelated natural gas line ruptures that snarled traffic on Route 140 in Westminster and Route 30 in Hampstead yesterday.

In both cases, contractors hired to do sidewalk and curb work were digging when workers accidentally struck a gas line serving Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, said Jessica Brown, a BGE spokeswoman.

No one was injured and no customers lost service in either incident, she said.

Contractors were working near Route 27 in Westminster when a three-quarter-inch pipe was punctured about 10: 45 a.m., Brown said.

Traffic was disrupted for less than two hours when fire and police officials closed the westbound lanes of Route 140 between Englar Road and Center Street.

"Eastbound lanes on 140 were never completely closed down and traffic was allowed to detour around the affected area," said Sgt. Brenda Tharp, duty officer at the Westminster barracks of the Maryland State Police.

Traffic backed up about a mile, as far east as Malcolm Drive, Tharp said.

In Hampstead, contractors snapped a three-eighths-inch high-pressure line serving one residential customer along Route 30 near Houcksville Road, Brown said.

Hampstead Police Chief Kenneth Meekins said officers closed Route 30 for 15 minutes before they were able to open one lane and alternate north and south traffic for 90 minutes until both lanes were available.

Meekins was uncertain how far backups extended.

One of three things likely occurs when someone is digging and breaks a gas line, Brown said.

"Either they have disregarded Miss Utility [a BGE service that locates and marks underground gas lines before digging is to begin], they have been careless in digging too close to locater markings, or the markings were not accurate," Brown said.

No one should dig closer than 18 inches to Miss Utility markings indicating underground gas lines, Brown said.

Pub Date: 5/26/99

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