A majority of construction-caused natural gas line ruptures in Arlington occur despite excavators calling Miss Utility to locate underground utility systems prior to digging, according to the latest figures.
For fiscal year 2015, Washington Gas, the local gas utility that serves Arlington, reported 48 incidents of damage to its gas distribution system in the county. Of these incidents, 73% were caused by excavators, and, of those, 63% occurred despite the contractors calling Virginia 811, the state’s Miss Utility call center, prior to excavation, the utility said.
As recently as late July, a gas leak was reported on S. Fillmore Street in an Arlington neighborhood with a mixture of single family homes, duplexes and apartment complexes. Four blocks were shut down after the gas began to leak out. Reports suggested a construction crew working on the sidewalks ruptured a 3/4-inch gas line.
Digging damage to other underground utility systems like water mains and fiber optic cables also are common, though statistics on those incidents were not immediately available. Because of the combustibility of natural gas, utilities are required by the state of Virginia to keep records on gas line ruptures.
Employees with Arlington County’s water and utilities division ruptured a water main on Aug. 30 as they were doing excavation work on a residential street to connect a new water pipe to a house undergoing major renovations, causing an eight-hour water outage in the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls neighborhood.
The rupture occurred even though surveyors had come to the 22nd Street N. site prior to the excavation work to spray paint yellow, blue and other colors marking where underground utility systems were located.
The markings showing the location of the underground water main that serves a portion of the neighborhood were not accurate, according to county workers at the scene. The colors indicating the existence of an underground water line appeared to be at least three feet from where the water main was actually located.
Frustrated by the water main rupture, the workers complained that the mapping of underground utility systems is routinely inaccurate. Arlington County uses a contractor, Double H. Locates LLC, for locating and marking of the county’s water mains, sanitary sewers, storm sewers and county fiber optic lines prior to excatvation. For natural gas lines, Washington Gas contracts with UtiliQuest. Double H. Locates did not return calls for comment about the water main rupture.
“Most of the time our markings are accurate, but occasionally there are errors,” Arlington County Chief Support Engineer Dave Hundelt said about the water main damage. “We need more time to investigate this particular instance, but if we hit a utility that was marked, mismarked or unmarked we report it to that utility company and work with them to coordinate repairs to our respective utilities to get customers back in service as soon as possible.”
The science of locating underground utility systems using remote-sensing instruments and maps provided by utilities remains very challenging, even for the best firms, according to Michael Maguire, president of Accurate Infrastructure Data Inc., a Baltimore-based company that provides underground utility investigation, subsurface utility engineering, surveying and mapping services.
These locator companies recognize their work is not foolproof.
“The underground is a complex environment,” Maguire said. “The congestion of underground utilities or the weakness of the conductor that represents the underground utility line can lead to less-than-fully accurate locations. Even under the best of circumstances, with the most diligent practitioners in the field, you can get misled. You can get fooled and end up with a location that’s not a correct depiction of where the utility actually exists. There are those practitioners who are perhaps less careful.”
Excavators are reminded constantly to call Miss Utility before digging. The call center will notify utility companies when excavation work is proposed in the vicinity of their utility system and then each utility has the responsibility to send out surveyors to locate and mark the utilities on the ground.
Arlington County is a member of Virginia 811, a not-for-profit organization created by Virginia’s utilities. Virginia 811 has more than 600 utility members, as large as Verizon and Dominion Virginia Power and as small as water utility systems with only 20 or 30 customers.
A busy street in Ballston has been closed due to a strong odor of natural gas coming from a manhole.
N. Randolph Street is closed between N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd, near the Ballston Common Mall demolition site. Several businesses on the Glebe Road side of Randolph have been evacuated.
Washington Gas crews are en route to try to stop the leak.
S. Fillmore Street between Columbia Pike and Route 50 has closed to traffic this afternoon as crews work to fix a gas leak.
The blocks between 2nd Street S. and 6th Street S. were shut down after gas began to seep out around the 400 block of S. Fillmore Street earlier today. Initial reports suggest a construction crew working on the sidewalks ruptured a 3/4 inch gas line.
Police are on the scene with Washington Gas personnel.
Update at 6:55 p.m. — The leak has been stopped and ACFD units have now left the scene.
Arlington County firefighters are on the scene of a major gas leak in the Virginia Square area.
Initial reports suggest that construction crews at the Latitude Apartments site, on the 3600 block of Fairfax Drive, across from the Metro station, hit and severed a three-inch gas line.
Police were called to the scene to block traffic around the gas leak.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Several traffic signals are out around Clarendon following a power outage that briefly affected much of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
The outage was reported around 12:30 p.m. in Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square and Ballston. Power was quickly restored in most places, though Dominion says just over 200 customers are still without power.
Restoration is at least initially expected between 4-6 p.m., according to Dominion’s website.
Traffic lights are out at the following intersections in and around Clarendon, according to scanner traffic. Police are setting up cones to help direct traffic.
- 10th Street and Washington Blvd
- 10th Street and Wilson Blvd
- 10th Street and Fairfax Drive
- 10th Street and Barton Street
More traffic signals are being reported out along Fairfax Drive and, separately, at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Lee Highway. An earlier traffic light outage at Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Street has reportedly been resolved.
As for what caused the power outage, one Twitter user in Courthouse reported hearing a “loud noise” before losing power, while others reported a tree down on wires and blown transformers at the intersection of 10th Street and N. Barton Street, near Barton Park.
Also, a smell of natural gas is being reported at 10th Street and Washington Blvd. The fire department and Washington Gas is responding to the scene.
— Shannon Croom (@ShannonCroom) February 24, 2016
@ARLnowDOTcom a tree fell on the wires
— michelle (@michelleebarr) February 24, 2016
@ARLnowDOTcom I heard from my son's teacher that two transformers blew up. Large part of Arlington w/o power.
— Reem Akkad (@reemakkad) February 24, 2016
— Audrey Kramer (@BrooklynAYK) February 24, 2016
@ARLnowDOTcom power still out in court house. At least in my building.
— Reem Akkad (@reemakkad) February 24, 2016
— Marisa (@maracasting) February 24, 2016
Update at 10:05 a.m. — The leak has been stopped, according to scanner traffic. Residents who had been evacuated are being allowed back into their homes.
The Arlington County Fire Department is on the scene of a large gas leak in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, near Pentagon City.
The leak was reported around 8:45 a.m. on S. Grant Street, between 18th and 19th Streets, a block from Arlington Fire Station No. 5.
Initial reports suggest a six-inch gas line below the street is actively leaking gas.
Washington Gas crews are on the scene and trying to figure out how to shut off the gas. Roads in the immediate vicinity are being shut down.
Update at 3:45 p.m. — The gas line has been shut off and the incident has been cleared. Northbound Crystal Drive remains shut down between Potomac Ave and 27 Street S. as repairs on the gas line continue.
Emergency crews are shutting down the 2600 block of Crystal Drive to repair a gas leak.
According to scanner traffic, multiple units from the Arlington County Fire Department are on scene for a hole in a four-inch gas line running underneath the street. Crystal Drive is under construction in the area and crews appeared to have hit the line while working.
The construction subcontractor that struck the gas line was working on the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway project, Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet confirmed to ARLnow.com.
Police are also being dispatched to keep pedestrians away from the leak and to try to keep those in the buildings adjacent to the leak inside. One of those buildings is a large Environmental Protection Agency office at 2777 Crystal Drive.
The street is shut down from Potomac Ave to around 26th Street S. Drivers in the area should seek alternate routes. According to the scanner, police have cleared the buildings in the area and there are no evacuations.
There is no indication yet of when the leak will be repaired and how it may affect the evening rush. Washington Gas repair crews are on scene.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) The Doubletree hotel at 300 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City was evacuated this afternoon due to a large gas leak.
The gas leak was said to be in the hotel’s parking garage. Firefighters at the scene reported strong odor of natural gas inside and outside the hotel. Guests and employees were evacuated from the hotel.
An Arlington County hazmat team and Washington Gas crews responded to the scene. Police shut down down Army Navy Drive between Eads and 12th Streets to accommodate the large emergency response.
Firefighters and gas company crews managed to shut off the gas after about an hour. Army Navy Drive reopened just after 5:30, and people are being allowed back into the hotel.
No injuries have been reported.
The gas leak in Clarendon that caused several buildings to evacuate last weekend was caused by unauthorized construction, ARLnow.com has learned.
Interior construction on the small, vacant space of 3127 Wilson Blvd caused the gas leak, and Arlington County’s department of Community Planning, Housing and Development said they have not approved any permits for work, and ordered the work to stop after the gas leak.
“On Saturday, our Building Inspector issued a notice of violation on the business and posted a stop work order,” CPHD spokeswoman Helen Duong said. “The business was doing major renovation without a permit.”
The small space, next door to Goody’s pizza shop, is owned by Tara Sharma, who also owns Classic Cigars & British Goodies (2907 Wilson Blvd). Sharma, who bought the space two months ago, said he doesn’t know what he plans to put into the space — except it won’t be a restaurant, coffee shop or ice cream store — but plans to make a decision in the next few weeks.
Sharma told ARLnow.com today that Washington Gas, which owns the gas line and the right-of-way for construction work, turned off the gas meter in the space at his request because “we don’t need the gas for the business.”
“I called them and told them there was a pipe there,” Sharma said. “They said ‘do whatever you want, there’s no gas in the pipe.'”
According to county staff, any penalties for unauthorized work in the right-of-way that caused the gas leak would be levied by Washington Gas. Representatives from Washington Gas did not return multiple messages seeking comment. Sharma said he hasn’t had any indication he’d be penalized for causing the leak.
Sharma agreed to stop construction while waiting for the county to approve his permit.
Gas Leak Causes Evacuation in Clarendon — A Saturday gas leak forced the closing of Clarendon Blvd. near the Clarendon Metro station. Approximately 50 people evacuated six nearby buildings during the incident. Nobody was hurt. [Washington Post]
Proposal to Turn Basement into Classrooms — On Thursday, Arlington School Board members are expected to approve a $2 million project to turn basement crawl space into classrooms at Arlington Science Focus School. The project would end the need for the four relocatable classrooms on the school’s property, as well as a planned fifth. [InsideNova]
No GOP Treasurer Candidate So Far — The Arlington County Republican Committee doesn’t have any contenders so far to run in the special election for county treasurer. If no names are added by the August 15 deadline, Treasurer Carla de la Pava will be unopposed. [InsideNova]
Initial reports suggest a public works crew struck a one-inch gas line on the 2100 block of S. Pollard Street, near Fort Barnard Park and the intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive.
Arlington County police and firefighters are on the scene. Washington Gas was considering ordering an evacuation of houses in a two block radius, but measuring devices indicated that the gas had dissipated, according to scanner traffic.
Currently, only the 2100 block of S. Pollard Street is closed while crews repair the ruptured gas line.
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) A road in Rosslyn has been shut down due to a gas leak.
Currently, 19th Street N. is closed between Lynn Street and N. Kent Street. We’re told a 2-inch high pressure gas line was ruptured. Police and firefighters are on the scene, waiting for Washington Gas to make repairs.
As of 2:20 p.m. the gas had been shut off and the road was being reopened to pedestrians. However, traffic restrictions are expected to remain in place.
(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Glebe Road has been temporarily closed south of Columbia Pike due to a gas leak.
Initial reports suggest a road construction crew struck an unmarked 2-inch gas line, rupturing it.
Police and firefighters have closed the stretch of Glebe between Columbia Pike and 12th Street S. to traffic while crews work to shut off the gas. There’s a strong smell of natural gas in the area, and pedestrians are being limited to one side of the street.
Drivers, particularly those heading northbound on Glebe, should expect delays in the area. Northbound drivers are advised to use Walter Reed Drive as an alternate route.
Police say they expect the road to remain closed until at least 4:00 p.m.
Update at 4:45 p.m. — Firefighters report that the gas has been shut off. Police are attempting to open up a lane of traffic through the intersection.
Earlier: A gas line break may snarl the drive home for some Crystal City commuters.
The four-way intersection of Long Bridge Drive, Crystal Drive, Clark Street and 12th Street S. is currently closed to traffic while Washington Gas crews try to shut the gas off. Police and firefighters are on the scene, and streets leading to the intersection have been closed to through traffic.
“Expect major residual delays and avoid this area if possible, as repairs are expected to last several hours,” the county said in an Arlington Alert email.
The leak is in a large 8-inch gas line and there’s a strong odor of natural gas in the area around it. The break is causing gas to loudly bubble up through standing rainwater in the middle of the intersection.
Road construction crews were seen working on the intersection and on parts of Long Bridge Drive earlier this morning.
Earlier: A two square block area in the Buckingham neighborhood, near the Gates of Ballston apartment complex, has been closed to vehicle and pedestrian vehicle due to a gas line rupture.
Construction workers ruptured a 2 inch gas line outside an apartment building at the corner of 4th Street N. and N. Thomas Street, according to scanner traffic. Washington Gas is on scene making repairs while firefighters stand by.
Police have shut down 4th Street between Glebe Road and George Mason Drive, and N. Thomas Street between N. Henderson Road and N. Pershing Drive.
The road closures may soon be lifted, however, as Washington Gas has reportedly shut off the gas to the ruptured line.