Westfield Gas + Electric emergency crews responded to a reported ruptured gas line on June 25th when a homeowner, who was excavating adjacent to their driveway, hit and severed the underground gas service pipe that runs from the main pipeline in the street to the house.
Crews were dispatched and on-site within minutes. Safety equipment including an excess flow valve, previously installed on the service line, performed as designed to automatically shut off the rapidly evacuating gas. Crews shut down the gas at the main and completed the necessary repairs to restore the customer’s natural gas service.
“It’s quite fortunate that this incident played out the way it did,” said Tom Flaherty, Sr., General Manager of Westfield Gas + Electric/Whip City Fiber. “The stakes could have been a lot higher, especially when a situation like this is easily avoidable. All it takes is one homeowner – or contractor – to dig without following the proper protocols of having their underground utilities marked out and there can be severe, and potentially catastrophic consequences.”
“Homeowners who are tempted to skip the step of calling 811 before digging are putting themselves, families, and their neighborhood at risk”, Flaherty continued. “We recognized this hit service line as an opportunity to send an important reminder about safe digging to everyone. Our primary concern is for the safety of our community and our Westfield Gas + Electric team, as well as the reliability of our gas system, but it’s always safety first. But we count on everyone in the community to help ensure the safety of our natural gas and electric lines.”
An unintentional strike on an underground utility can have serious consequences, such as critical injury or loss of life, as well as service disruptions, costly repairs, and fines. Making a free call to 811 before digging will help homeowners and businesses maintain essential utility service for themselves and neighbors and keep communities safe by reducing the likelihood of accidentally digging into buried utility lines.
Once a call is placed to 811, professional locators visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint, flags, or both, at no cost to the homeowner. Once the markings are in place, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas. Visit www.call811.com for additional information and follow Westfield Gas + Electric on Facebook and Twitter (@wgeld) for periodic safety reminders.
Keep the following information handy so you know what to do before you put a shovel of any size into the ground:
- Always call 811 at least 72 hours before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
- Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
- Confirm that all lines have been marked.
- Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
- If a contractor has been hired, confirm that the contractor has called 811. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.
WG+E makes a concerted effort to get the Call 811 message out to residents all year long, as well as information on how to recognize a gas leak and ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. As part of this effort, WG+E is teaming up with the Westfield Starfires on Sunday, August 8th, at Bullens Field (3 p.m.) to promote the Call 811 message with a day of family fun and giveaways. Customers can register for a pair of free tickets by emailing their name and phone number to PublicAwareness@wgeld.org or by calling Customer Service at 413-572-0100 by August 1st. Winners will be notified the following day.
Westfield Gas + Electric wants to remind you that if you smell gas, leave the area immediately and call 911 and WG+E Dispatch at 413-572-0000 from a safe distance to report it. Visit
the WG+E’s Safety page at www.wgeld.org for more gas safety information.