Severed Gas Line Creates Scare on Pine Avenue

February 2, 2018

By Katherine Keller

Residents of the 3200 block of South Pine Avenue were alerted of a gas leak early in the evening of January 9.

Jennifer Kresse, a resident of the block, said she left her home on Pine Avenue about 6:15pm and discovered that she was unable to access her street when she returned at 7:19pm because it was closed to traffic. A worker on site told her that an “unmarked gas line” had been severed and that Milwaukee Police Department officials would determine whether or not residents would need to evacuate their homes. Neither she nor her immediate neighbors were evacuated.

Another resident of Pine Avenue had contacted DPW/Milwaukee Water Works Control Center to report a leak in the street. Milwaukee Water Works crews determined the leak was a break on an 8-inch water main.

DPW said that due to the number of water main breaks that Milwaukee Water Works repair crews were working to repair, MJ Construction, a private contractor, was contacted and hired to do the repair work. “It is the contractor’s responsibility to contact Diggers Hotline for field location of existing underground utilities prior to excavating a main break. Diggers Hotline does the coordination of marking underground utilities,” said a DPW spokesperson commenting on the broken main.

Likewise, We Energies was contacted and informed that a contractor struck a We Energies gas service line in the 3200 block of E. Pine Ave on Jan. 9. “We arrived on scene, stopped the flow of gas, and made repairs to the equipment,” said Amy Jahns, We Energies’ public relations manager.

The Compass was not able to verify whether the gas line was marked or unmarked. However, Chad Krueger of Diggers Hotline said, “Anyone who is digging in Wisconsin is required by law to contact Diggers Hotline first. That includes the street, sidewalk, lot, etc. If DPW was digging, they would be required to contact Diggers Hotline.”

He said that he was not able to indicate if MJ Construction had contacted Diggers Hotline before working on the water main because “details about the communication between Diggers Hotline and excavators and the communication between Diggers Hotline and our member utilities are private transactions.”

“I can tell you,” said Krueger, “that in every case that Diggers Hotline is notified of an excavator’s intent to dig, we notify the affected utility owners (or their contracted utility locating vendor company) so that the location of the buried utilities can be marked. It is the responsibility of the utilities to mark the location of their buried lines. Some utilities hire a vendor to handle that responsibility. Diggers Hotline does not go to job sites, nor does Diggers Hotline know the location of actual buried utility lines. Diggers Hotline only knows which utilities wish to be notified.”

Jahns said she was not able to provide more details about the event because it was under investigation.

MJ Construction did not respond to numerous requests made by the Compass for information and comment about the severed gas line.

The water main and gas line were repaired and the street was reopened about 10pm.

“Whoever worked all night to fix it, I want to kiss them on the face,” Kresse said.

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