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New Report Places Blame for Cary Gas Line Fire

Posted October 27, 2007

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— New information has been released regarding who might be to blame for Cary’s gas line fire on Oct. 10.

Contractors were digging to install a traffic signal at Kildaire Farm and Tryon roads when they punctured a gas line, resulting in a fireball. A preliminary report by Cary town engineers directs part of the blame to the gas company, PSNC Energy.

“Were the gas lines marked in a way that a reasonable person would’ve been able to know not to drill in that area?” Town of Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran asked.

The report says no. The marks were “too-faded” for the contractor, Fulcher-Electric, to see.

“We know our mark of the pipeline was accurate and visible,” said PSNC Energy spokeswoman Angie Townsend.

PSNC Energy officials said their yellow paint is water-based, and the fading could stem from firefighters pouring gallons of water to put out the fire. The company took pictures right after the incident to show the paint was still visible.

PSNC said the marks were painted at the contractor's request, which was submitted in September. The markings are good for 15 working days from the request date, so the order expired Oct. 4.

On Oct. 9, PSNC Energy got another request from the contractor to locate lines at the Tryon and Kildaire Farm roads. Utilities have 48 hours to make the markings or refresh them, but one day after the request, the contractor started drilling.

“Unfortunately, the contractor did not wait for the required 48 hours for us to mark the line,” Townsend said.

“We are aware of the timing issue,” Moran said.

Moran said town staff is also looking into whether the contractor followed proper procedure.

“[The report is] not a conclusion. It’s not a final investigation,” Moran said.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission is investigating what led to the burning spectacle.

“We are confident that investigation will show PSNC followed all proper locating procedures,” Townsend said.

WRAL’s efforts to reach Fulcher Electric officials on Saturday were unsuccessful. Cary officials said public safety response and cleanup costs from the gas line fire were about $55,000.

Insurance companies for the town of Cary and Fulcher-Electric were still investigating the incident.

35 Comments

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  • Made In USA Oct 29, 2007

    Cary needs to rename their city to "The Town Of Not Me". This is a pattern that they are following. Remember when their sewer line poured 8,000,000 plus gallons of their raw sewage into Lake Wheeler creating a toxic wastesite? It wasn't their fault...so they say! It was the contractor's fault that they hired. And by the way, they did it again - to a lessor degree - this weekend to Lake Johnson. Only 7,000 gallons this time. Both of these times we had a rainfall that contributed to the spills. As far as Cary goes, when it rains, it pours. Sewage that is.

  • rafiki Oct 29, 2007

    Okay, let's rule this out to be accidental.....this is where insurance takes over!

  • drewbyh Oct 29, 2007

    In all my years in the construction business, I would place my money on this being the contractors fault. In my experience, it's usually a backhoe operator that's a little to eager to get the job done quickly and supervisors who are absent or just not paying attention.

  • whatelseisnew Oct 29, 2007

    The Contractor is at fault in this incident. I just love how people now a days step up and take responsibility for their mistakes.

  • They call me CATMAN Oct 29, 2007

    Any reasonable contractor would have check to see where the gas lines were burried. where is PSNC at fault here they were marked the contractor knew there were gas lines faint or not.

  • wife-of-a-concrete-man Oct 29, 2007

    * blame *- oops

  • wife-of-a-concrete-man Oct 29, 2007

    what a round-a-bout way to REPORT where blmae was placed! c'mon, WRAL...

  • jamesrouse21 Oct 28, 2007

    If the report stated who was at fault, why did WRAL leave it out of the story

  • Joe Schmoe Oct 28, 2007

    The lines were marked, then they faded so much that the contractor couldn't see them, then the contractor proceeded to drill before the lines were re-marked? On what planet is PSNC at fault here? This is a clear-cut case of the contractor digging when they *knew* there were gas lines there but they weren't sure where they were. This sure smells like someone in Cary government is in bed with Fulcher and is protecting them, no? Hey, WRAL, how about showing us some real investigative journalism here, and put your reporters to work digging out this rat?

  • SailbadTheSinner Oct 28, 2007

    It really doesn’t matter who gets the blame initially. If the amount of money is significant it will end up in mediation, arbitration, or court.

    But, about the actual causes of the “event”, there are many possibilities. Here are a few comments about sub-surface work:

    1. Surface marking is only a general indication that something is below. The accuracy is definitely limited, especially if there is a lot of stuff in a small area.

    2. Surface marking usually doesn’t indicate depth.

    3. Directional boring is subject to multiple variables that change the actual location of the bore. Some systems are more accurate – and cost more – than others.

    4. Plastic gas line is VERY easy to damage. So is direct burial power cable and PVC conduit. There was a definite advantage to good old steel pipe ....

    5. Record drawings that show underground locations should NEVER be trusted.

    STS

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