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Dave Olson, Published August 13 2009

Leak forces another Moorhead evacuation

For the second time in as many days, workers installing underground cable nicked a natural gas line in south Moorhead, prompting the evacuation of nearby residents.

Wednesday’s incident followed a meeting held earlier in the day at which Midcontinent Communications officials talked sternly with subcontractors about gas leaks caused by the installation of Midcontinent cable, said Moorhead Fire Chief Joel Hewitt.

Crews working for Midcontinent have caused at least 12 gas leaks since May 11, according to information provided by the Moorhead Fire Department.

One of those leaks occurred Tuesday morning not far from the site of Wednesday’s cut, which involved a crew working for Midcontinent in the area of Rivershore Drive and Riverhaven Road in south Moorhead.

Hewitt said contractors sat quietly as they received a talking-to from Midcontinent officials during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Midcontinent, from the CEO all the way down, is very concerned and is very focused on what is going on with their subcontractors,” Hewitt said as he monitored repairs to the broken gas line Wednesday evening.

He said with so many types of utility lines grouped underground, “hits” like the one experienced Wednesday are inherent with a large project.

“The frequency is what we’re getting concerned about,” he said.

Not all of the gas leaks in Moorhead this summer have been caused by crews working for Midcontinent, which is in the process of installing cable as part of the company’s new franchise in Moorhead.

In one case, a car struck a meter, causing a leak.

In three instances, Moorhead Public Service crews nicked gas lines, Fire Department records show.

Midcontinent officials at the scene of Wednesday’s gas leak declined to talk about the situation, referring questions to a company spokesman in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The spokesman could not be reached for comment.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555