Local News

Report: Ruptured Cary Gas Line Properly Marked

Posted December 27, 2007 3:09 p.m. EST
Updated December 28, 2007 10:46 a.m. EST

— An underground gas main that exploded into a fireball two months ago after being ruptured by an electrical contractor was properly marked, according to a report issued Thursday.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission report contradicts preliminary findings issued by Cary officials two weeks after the Oct. 10 incident. Local officials said PSNC Energy, which owns the gas main, failed to mark the line before Fulcher Electric Co. drilled a hole for a new traffic signal at the intersection of Kildaire Farm and Tryon roads.

A Fulcher Electric crew punctured the 8-inch line, and escaping gas ignited, sending flames shooting more than 100 feet into the air. The gas burned for about six hours before PSNC crews were able to cap the line, and the fire and resulting road repairs forced the closure of the busy intersection for a day.

The 72-page report issued by the Utilities Commission didn't place blame for the incident, which caused $285,955 in damage. But the findings issued indicated that PSNC had clearly marked the gas line, noting a series of yellow marks across Tryon Road were in line with the hole the Fulcher Electric crew drilled and a faded mark on Kildaire Farm Road also was in the same line.

The commission said an on-site meeting between the Fulcher Electric Crew and PSNC managers could have averted the rupture by narrowing down possible excavation locations.

"This report confirms what we’ve maintained since the incident occurred – that PSNC Energy appropriately marked the pipeline and that our marks were accurate and visible," company spokeswoman Angie Townsend said in a statement.

PSNC crews painted the marks at the contractor's request, which was submitted in September, according to the report. The markings are good for 15 working days from the request date.

On Oct. 9, PSNC got another request from Fulcher Electric to locate lines at Tryon and Kildaire Farm roads. Utilities have 48 hours to make the markings or refresh them, but the contractor began drilling and ruptured the line a day after submitting its follow-up request, the report said.

The findings also contradicted statements made to investigators by Fulcher Electric owner Ray Fulcher, who said the gas line wasn't marked properly. "Mr. Fulcher stated that he believed the PSNC locators were inexperienced and overworked," the report said.

Fulcher's son Brian was the chief of the drilling crew that ruptured the gas line, the report said.

Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran said town officials would review the Utilities Commission report Friday morning and compare it to their preliminary findings. They also plan to review the contract they had with the contractor, she said.