Utility to Inspect Thousands of Sewer Lines

Two homes destroyed in February when gas lines were struck have caused Xcel Energy and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to warn the public about possibly intersecting gas and sewer lines.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy will begin a multi-year program to inspect an estimated 50,000 sewer lines in Minnesota and North Dakota, after two homes in the St. Paul, Minn. area were destroyed by a natural gas-fueled fire or explosion last month. The state fire marshal's office, which includes the state Office of Pipeline Safety, is involved and suggested the added inspections.

The first incident happened on Feb. 1 when a power drain auger being used to clear a sewer pipe struck a natural gas line that had accidentally been run through the pipe, according to news media accounts, and Xcel has posted a natural gas safety alert asking customers not to attempt to clear a sewer blockage that may be caused by a natural gas pipe without first calling 1-800-895-2999.

The second incident was an explosion that leveled a home in Edina, but that incident involved another company's gas line.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's notice to the public says there is little risk unless gas service has been moved since a home was built. Trenchless technology used to install gas lines in established neighborhoods has found gas lines inadvertently installed in some sewer lines, the alert states. It says conflicts are not a problem if the gas line was installed by open trench, if the gas line when installed was verified as presenting no sewer conflict, or if the gas line was installed before or concurrently with the sewer line.

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