Gas leak a reminder about digging laws

A gas leak in Bellefonte briefly closed a section of East Howard Street and shut down gas service for a few houses early Thursday morning.

A contractor was working at a house near the intersection of Howard and North Wilson streets, Logan Fire Chief Walt Schneider said, when a three-quarter-inch metal stake driven into the ground ruptured the gas line to the house.

Few people were home in the surrounding houses when the leak occurred, he said, so evacuations weren’t an issue. The staff at Centre Crest nursing home were told not to use their main entrance until the issue was resolved.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania responded by shutting off the gas and repairing the line, Columbia spokesman Russ Bidell said. Gas service was soon restored to the residence.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened,” he said. “I want to remind everyone that before digging for any kind of a project — contractor or homeowner — you have to call 811 before you dig.”

Under Pennsylvania law, anyone who intends to dig on a property must give three days notice to all utility companies before digging, he said. Calling 811 alerts the utility companies to mark all the underground lines and pipes where the digging will be done.

“Even homeowners digging for a mailbox or planting a tree need to call too,” he said.

Bidell warned not to assume the depth of a utility line. No matter how shallow, the area should be marked.

The contractor failed to notify of his intent to dig, leading to the incident, Schneider said.

When a line is damaged, Bidell said, a report is made and an investigation is conducted. He could not say whether a fine or other action would be involved.