Source: Sherman Publications

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Gas leak at Celebrate Oxford again!

by CJ Carnacchio

August 08, 2012

If Celebrate Oxford had a theme song, it would most likely be pop star Brittany Spears' 2000 hit "Oops! I Did It Again."

Just as it did in 2010, the event experienced a natural gas leak on Aug. 4 caused by metal tent stake driven in the wrong spot.

When it was placed, the stake punctured a 2-inch plastic gas line located about 2 to 3 feet below the ground along E. Burdick St. in front of the Wireless Toyz store.

This is exactly what happened back in 2010. In fact, the puncture occurred in about the same area and was perpetrated by the same company that ruptured it two years ago, North Branch Rent-All based in Fostoria.

This rental company has been providing the tent that houses the Oxford Chamber of Commerce's Business Expo, a regular feature at Celebrate Oxford.

North Branch's owner was on the scene, but he declined to comment on the situation. According to the police and firefighters who were there, the owner was voicing his displeasure about having to leave his tent and stakes at the scene for a few hours until a crew from Consumers Energy showed up.

"We wouldn't let him into the area because it was dangerous," explained Oxford Fire Capt. Ron Jahlas. The gas leak became evident when the 3-foot stake was pulled out around 7:41 p.m. When the stake initially went into the pipe, it appears a seal was formed, so the leak didn't occur until it was removed.

Firefighters and village police officers immediately shut down that portion of E. Burdick St. to all vehicular and foot traffic until Consumers Energy workers could shut off the gas. That occurred around 12:30 a.m.

Jahlas noted the gas levels inside the buildings containing Wireless Toyz and Allstate Insurance "were definitely high enough to evacuate, but they were empty due to the time of day."

"We had just trace amounts down (in the basement below Great Lakes Mercantile) not enough to evacuate that building," he said. "On the north side of the road, Red Knapp's and John Burt Realty were both evaluated and found to have (gas levels of) zero percent."

Unlike the 2010 incident, this rupture was not the result of a failure to mark the gas line's location. The problem two years ago was that the tent rental company failed to call MISS DIG System, Inc. MISS DIG is a statewide excavation safety and utility damage prevention company that's been around since 1970. One toll-free call is all it takes to have MISS DIG notify its more than 900 participating members in order to have them stake their underground utility lines.

This year, MISS DIG was called and the gas line's approximate location was clearly marked on the concrete with spray-painted yellow lines. However, whoever drove the stakes for North Branch Rent All did so "within a foot" of the markings, which is too close, according to Jahlas.

According to the state's Protection of Underground Facilities law (Act 53 of 1974), "The approximate location of underground facilities is defined as a strip of land at least 36 inches wide, but not wider than the width of the facility, plus 18 inches on either side of the facility."

Jahlas noted as before, North Branch Rent-All will be required to cover the cost of the manpower, time and equipment provided by both the fire department and Consumers Energy. He said firefighters left the scene at 1:01 a.m. whereas Consumers Energy "stayed all night" to make the necessary repairs.

DDA Administrative Assistant Maria Martin noted "any tent used in the future will not be staked."

She said either concrete blocks or water barrels will be used to hold the tent in place.