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California gas explosion leads to gas line concerns

Springfield City Utilities explains its ongoing efforts to assure its customers natural gas lines are safe.

September 13, 2010|Linda Russell | KY3 Reporter

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.


While CU staff are taking steps to keep the lines safe, they also want to hear about any potential danger day or night.  "We do want people to call us if they detect an odor of gas, either inside or outside," says Phillips.

CU also does periodic internal inspections of the gas lines; the last one being three years ago and the next coming late next year.

If you are a CU customer and smell a natural gas odor, leave the area first and then call (417)863-9000.

 For more safety tips, visit the City Utilities website.

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