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Residents Back in Homes, City Back in Business After Gas Line Rupture

Workers excavating for water-line project broke a gas line at East K and East Second streets. After being evacuated for over three hours City Hall and the police station have reopened.

Update: 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, October 4

The accident appears to be the result of human error.  The company was excavating a trench for a water line.  The location of the gas line was clearly marked.  “They had several options for excavating around the pipeline,” said Charlie Knox, director of Community Planning and Public Works for the City of Benicia.  “They were using a very laborious method and thought they had a little more room, but they didn’t”

Update: 4 p.m.

All the streets have been reopened in downtown Benicia.  Crews from PG&E have completely isolated the broken section of high pressure natural gas line that was ruptured by a construction crew.  

The city manager's office has reopened for business but the finance department, where residents can pay their water bills, is closed for the rest of Monday and will reopen Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.  The library is scheduled to reopen at 4 p.m.

PG&E spokesman Jason King says the damaged section of pipe will be replaced by 8 p.m.  While residents felt some disruption in their routine, King said there was no disruptoin to service for any PG&E customers.

Update: 2:45 p.m.

East L Street is being reopened.  Anyone who has a car parked in the Benicia Public Library parking lot, the US Post Office parking lot or in front of City Hall can get to thier cars.  The buildings are still closed until gas levels can be checked inside.

Update: 2:35 p.m.

The Benicia Unified School District decided to evacuate Liberty High School as a precaution even though they were not directed to do so by public safety personnel.

It sounds as though PG&E crews have gotten the leak isolated and have been able to shut off the supply of gas.  Fire officials and PG&E are using instruments to check the gas level in the air.  Shortly after the accident happened officials said the gas level was at seven percent and five percent is considered lethal.

Update: 2:15 p.m.

PG&E crews are estimating they will have the gas leak isolated and the gas shut off by 3:30 p.m., according to Benicia Fire Marshal Ray Iverson.

Update 1:45 P.M.

According to Lt. Mike Daley of the Benicia Police Department, even though all available patrol officers were helping with evacuation and traffic control it didn't mean calls weren't being answered.  "If there was another emergency we have people who can respond," said Daley.  "We have detectives who can answer calls and we can get assistance from the Solano County Sheriffs Department and the California Highway Patrol if we need it."

"Available personnel from Benica Fire Department and Benicia Police Department have been able to to handle the situation so far," said Daley.

Update 1:30 P.M.

PG&E crews arrived on site and estimated it will take four hours to repair the broken four inch high pressure gas line.

Water Line Workers Break Gas Line

Workers excavating a trench for a water line project accidentally broke a high pressure gas distribution line.  The city has evacuated businesses and residences in the 100 and 200 blocks of East J, East K and East L Streets. 

City Hall and the Post Office have been evacuated and the Emergency Dispatch center has been moved from the police station to the fire station.

Fire Marshal Ray Iverson reported that the damaged line is a four inch plastic high pressure distribution line.  “There are two feeds so the break will have to be isolated from both sides,” said Iverson. 

Iverson also reported that there was no disruption in 911 emergency dispatch service as it was moved from the dispatch center at the police station to the Emergency Operations Center at the main fire house across from the Solano Square Shopping. “We have a plan in place and we’re executing it,” said Iverson.

Evacuated residents can gather at the Benicia Community Center.  According to Iverson, “There are people there to receive them.”

JB Davis (Editor) October 03, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Now that all the excitement downtown is over, what stories do you - by that I mean Benicia Patch readers - want me to do as a follow-up to the gas line rupture? I've talked to my editor, but I really want to know what the readers want to know.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" October 03, 2011 at 11:44 PM
When the gas line was ruptured today, the helicopter flying overhead gave me a "1984" George Orwell feeling. I understand why they were there and I appreciate them, I'm just being honest!!
Karl Voigt October 03, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Do our city workers not know how to determine where gas lines are? If so we are in need of better training or better, more highly paid workers. This accident had the potential to be fatal, at a hydrocarbon level of 5, 7 is fatal. Nothing good will come of short changing our public workers, this is the kind of thing that can happen.
Liz Edwards October 04, 2011 at 12:33 AM
I think Mary Farmar elementary school had a gas leak that was repaired this year. I'm wondering how old the gas lines are in our town and do they ever get inspected?
Liz Edwards October 04, 2011 at 12:34 AM
I meant to also say thank you for the ongoing updates. Super helpful. Also...does Benicia Patch have a twitter account? I'd like to sign up for "breaking Benicia news" if there ever is any.
Jan Cox Golovich October 04, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Much appreciation to the Benicia Patch for its continuous updates on the gas line break- you were the only local source of information on this emergency (that I could find) Also kudos to the Benicia Unified School District for taking the extra precaution of evacuating Liberty High School.
JB Davis (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 01:51 AM
You can find us at @beniciapatch. I actually sent a couple of tweets and a facebook post before I go the first story up. And thanks you for the compliment.
JB Davis (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Thanks Jan!
JB Davis (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 01:56 AM
Karl, The line wasn't broken by city workers. It was the contractor working on the East Second Street water project. Part of my follow-up will be to better understand what steps were taken before the trenching was begun to determine where the underground utilities were. I am really glad this wasn't a tragic accident like the one in Walnut Creek a few years ago where four men died. This certainly points out the importance of getting the utilities located before you dig.
Mernie October 04, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Why was that helicopter there? That's what made me look on line to find out what was going on since it wasn't orange and over the water doing an S&R. Thanks for a great job with info & updates!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" October 04, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Read George Orwell, 1984. It is a book about totalitarism, run amok. In the book there is this Omnipotent Government thats called "Big Brother" . Well big brother watches every thing and every aspect of the citizens lives. Freedom doesn't exist anymore and we the people have become we the sheeple!!! I give it two thumbs up!!!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" October 04, 2011 at 10:09 PM
You can fool some of the people some of the time (sheeple) but you can't fool all of the people all of the time
JB Davis (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Bobby, It was a news helicopter! Let's try an focus the comments on the response by the city and PG&E. When I write a story about cameras hidden in trees in City Park, that's when the Orwellian talk should emerge.
JB Davis (Editor) October 04, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Again, what does this have to do with the accident or the response by the various agencies involved?
"The Black Panther of Poetry" October 05, 2011 at 12:53 AM
J.B. just look at the word "Helicopter" now break it down phonetically. Hell/Eye/Cop/ter: Hel=bad I =eye Cop=police ter=short for terra forma ie Earth!! Translation; the bad eye of the police/government/state watching you down on the ground(earth)!!!
Holly Dinsdale October 05, 2011 at 06:04 AM
I live one block from where this happened. The police stated that they evacuated the 200 block of east J st (where I live). This did not happen. I was unaware that there had been a leak until a friend called me, later that evening, to see if we were Ok. I was home all day and there was no evacuation on my street. It is disturbing to hear that the levels were at seven and fatal would be considered five. If I were to walk out my front door and down half a block I can see where they were digging. The library and Liberty High were evacuated and they are further away then my home. I am glad that public buildings and a suicidal man were all attended to during this time, however I am disturbed at the lack of service where residents were concerned and the blatant overstatement of what the police did to secure all residents during this gas leak.
Bay Native October 05, 2011 at 03:56 PM
NICE n here I though they were called ghetto birds lol
JB Davis (Editor) October 05, 2011 at 05:59 PM
This is the kind of thing the city needs to hear about so they know where they can improve. Also, the evacuation of Liberty High was the school district's call, not the city's. You really should notify the fire marshal about not being contacted.
Holly Dinsdale October 05, 2011 at 06:33 PM
I agree. Thank you for the information on who to contact.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" October 05, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I would like to know why didn't the loud city wide alarm that they practice for a few minutes on Wednesday@ 11a.m., sound off. Why?!!! It's like when I was a kid and we only had the A.B.C. channels. Every so often a screeching noise would interrupt your show and the announcer would say, "This is a test, this is only a test. Should this be a real situation you would here this sound and announcement and be instructed accordingly"!!! Then after the annoucement you could go back to watching Gilligans' Island or Batman. Does that system still exist?

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