SPRINGFIELD, Missouri — Could a natural gas line rupture like the one that leveled an entire California neighborhood happen here? Springfield City Utilities explains its ongoing efforts to assure its customers natural gas lines are safe.
The San Bruno, California explosion sent a ball of fire hundreds of feet into the air, and a giant crater marks the spot where a gas pipe was blown out of the earth.
At least four people were killed, and nearly 50 homes destroyed. It reminds us all of the possible dangers. "Our first goal is to improve safety. If we see issues with safety, we'll put out recommendations immediately," says Christopher Hart of the National Transportation Safety Board.
"Something like this is very unusual, and it does capture everyone's attention," says CU Manager of Natural Gas Distribution Leonard Phillips.
Here in the Ozarks, City Utilities crews are walking the gas lines daily to make sure they're safe. "This is called a flame ionization unit. It will detect gas in as small amounts at 50 parts per million. That's a leak that you probably wouldn't even smell," says CU gas leak investigator Rick Love.
Every pipe in the CU system gets checked out at least every three years. "If I detect some gas, it would produce this noise," Love says.
Some lines are looked at every year, and in densely populated areas, like business districts, they're surveyed quarterly. "We like to find leaks when they're small, before they become major leaks, and then we can repair them fairly quickly," says Phillips.
CU is updating it's system to prevent leaks. In 2003, a rock pressing into an underground gas line caused an explosion that killed fairgrounds maintenance worker, Brad Murphy.
"We are replacing segments of pipe that are in that type of backfill. That's an ongoing process," says Phillips. The replacement pace is six miles of gas line every year, with 55 miles to go.