Penn Valley, Lower Merion Township, PA — Worker using a Bobcat type excavator breached a four-inch gas line in the rear of the Belmont Hills Library. The highly volatile accident occurred last Thursday, April 18 around 11;42 AM. Vast amounts of Natural gas were escaping from the damaged pipe.
“We could have had a real problem if the pool were open,” stated Chas McGarvey, Chief Fire Officer for Lower Merion Township. An evacuation of the pool and the would have been required. The township property where the accident occurred is right next to the township pool.
Belmont Hills Fire Company and Chief Fire Officer Chas McGarvey responded. The damaged piping was only 50-75 feet away from the Library. The 4-inch diameter pipe is a medium distribution pipeline owned by PECO Energy. The loud hissing sound of the gas under pressure could be heard over 150 yards away.
Due to the proximity to the library, firefighters placed gas monitoring devices inside the library. They checked all the rooms in the library to make sure that no gas had entered the building. The library had only opened about 40 minutes before the call. There were approximately 20 people in the building including children, parents, and workers.
The stench of the gas was wafting out over the area which triggered other calls about gas odors.
We could not confirm that the workers were employees of the township or if they were contractors. Calls to the Township public works department went unanswered.
Workers were reportedly looking for a water line and dug into the gas line instead.
In Pennsylvania, there is what is known as the PA 1-Call System or the Call Before You Dig 811 system. Both will send out someone to mark all of the lines in the area where someone plans to dig.
The workers on the site reported that the lines were marked about six months before the accident. Not calling can lead to violations of state and OSHA law,
Whenever workers or contractors are planning to be digging underground, they are required to notify the one-call system. The public Utility commission enforces the Underground Utility Line Protection Law known as Act 287 called the One Call Law.
PECO’s energy technicians soon arrived and within hours had the leak plugged. An army of PECO trucks and construction equipment arrived within an hour of the call.
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