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Construction is picking up -- and so is the problem of gas main breaks from construction activity

DAVID F. ASHTON - At this Westmoreland construction site, natural gas was escaping from a ruptured mainline - fire and gas company personnel worked to shut off the gas in the street, just west, next to the post office parking lot. Two Northwest Natural gas-line breaks, both on Thursday morning, August 10, and only about 90 minutes apart, kept both gas company and Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews busy.

The first rupture was reported at 10:16 a.m. that morning, bringing fire trucks from Woodstock Station 25, among others, to S.E. Lafayette Street, between 61st and 62nd Avenues.

In that area of the Foster-Powell neighborhood, sections of Lafayette Street have recently been closed off for road construction projects.

"Our readings show that this leak is coming from under the pavement, perhaps the sidewalk," said a PF&R lieutenant. NW Natural crews moved in, shut down the gas main, and took care of what they determined had to be done. The work was done by 11:31 a.m.

Then, at 11:57 a.m., just minutes later, there was another "major gas callout" – this time in Westmoreland.

Gas was spewing from the front of the new mixed-use building construction site located at 1611 SE Bybee Boulevard, between the new home of "PDX Sliders" and Oaks Bottom Public House.

Woodstock Station 25's engine crew responded again, joined by Engine 20 from Westmoreland Station 20, just down the street.

"The break is right there, next to the porta-potty," indicated a PF&R lieutenant.

Instead of trying to shut off the gas flow at the construction site, NW Natural crews decided to pinch off the gas line by digging down in the northwest corner of S.E. 16th Avenue and Bybee Boulevard, across from the Sellwood-Moreland Post Office.

By about 1:30 p.m., the gas line had been closed off, affecting some of the customers on the street until the rupture was repaired later that afternoon.

Most such gas line breaks come from construction activity, and – say workers – sometimes underground utilities are not found where maps indicated they were supposed to be, which can cause such mishaps.

Contract Publishing

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