LEAD – At approximately 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, members of the Lead Volunteer Fire Department and Lead Police Department responded to a call about a broken gas line which had been struck while crews for RCS Construction were installing water lines near the Ross Campus at the Sanford Underground Research Facility.
“It’s kind of a high traffic area, we were trying to get the water line installed in that area so that it wouldn’t interrupt construction during the week,” said Mike Headley, laboratory director at the Sanford Lab. “That’s why they were digging on a Saturday.”
Headley said that while the RCS crew was installing a pipe near the Ross guard gate, a 4-inch gas line was struck.
“The Ross complex, our staff has been evacuated, and as I understand there are a number of residents nearby that have been evacuated as well,” he said.
Rob Carr, with the Lead Volunteer Fire Department, said they had evacuated approximately 25 homes in the area as a precaution while the gas line was being replaced, but didn’t feel the need to relocate anyone.
“Because this is a short term evacuation, we didn’t set up a shelter for them,” he said.
“Thankfully it sounds like we’ve got a little bit of a breeze to the north, so it’s blowing (the gas), in large part, away from the residential section,” Headley added. “We’re just trying to treat this as seriously as we need to make sure they don’t get hurt, but we apologize for interrupting their Saturday as a result.”
Headley estimated work on the line could take the majority of the day. He thanked everyone who had responded to the incident and applauded them for responding quickly and effectively to prevent any injuries.
“I thank the fire and police who are on site right now along with our emergency response team and MDU trying to address it,” he said.
Constance Walter, communications director for the Sanford Lab said that there is always a utility line assessment done prior to any digging around the facility.
“We had confirmation that there were no gas lines or other utility lines in the area before the digging began,” she said.
Headley said that, as with any safety incident, an investigation will take place to figure out how the incident occurred, and what can be done to prevent a similar event in the future.
“Any sort of safety incident we always investigate to figure out what we could have done better,” he said.
The MDU offices could not be reached for immediate comment.