PG&E and local fire officials Thursday were in San Carlos to emphasize the importance of calling 811 before doing any type of digging.
PG&E officials are promoting safe digging practices as part of National Safe Digging Month, pointing out that PG&E responded to over 1,000 incidents in 2012 where a third party dug into PG&E gas pipelines without calling 811 to verify where the pipelines were.
Thursday's news conference, at 275 Industrial Road, came on the heels of two Bay Area evacuations from gas leaks caused by crews digging: on Wednesday by a Caltrans subcontractor in San Mateo, and Thursday by a PG&E crew in San Jose.
Thursday's incident by PG&E crews "underscores the importance of utilizing and implementing safe digging practices in any situation on any project, including a PG&E project," PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord said.
The gas leak in East San Jose prompted the evacuation of 15 homes for hours Thursday morning, according to PG&E officials. The leak was caused when a PG&E crew doing work in the area nicked the gas line.
While the incident is still under investigation, Chord said it initially appears that the crew was using the wrong digging equipment around the pipe, causing the rupture.
But each year PG&E says there are hundreds of similar incidents by homeowners or contractors that the utility stresses are avoidable.
"Utility lines buried underground can lie just a few feet from the surface due to soil erosion or grading. Whether planting a tree, installing a sprinkler system or building a fence, homeowners and professional excavators need to know where these lines lie underground before digging to prevent injuries, property damage and outages," PG&E senior director of gas maintenance John Higgins said.
By calling 811, customers reach the Underground Service Alert, which contacts local utility companies to mark the approximate location of their underground facilities around the excavation site to help crews avoid them.
PG&E said that according to California law anyone doing excavation work must notify utilities at least two days before digging.
But in Wednesday's incident, Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said Thursday that USA was contacted and gas lines were unmarked at the dig site and Caltrans was informed that the line was "abandoned."
The Caltrans subcontractor, Mike Brown Electric Co., then punctured a natural gas steel pipeline, two inches in diameter, resulting in the evacuation of two buildings and a three-hour closure of El Camino Real, between Third and Fourth avenues, in San Mateo.
The subcontractor was working on the San Mateo County "Smart Corridor" project in the 300 block of South El Camino Real when the pipeline ruptured at 8 a.m., San Mateo police Sgt. Dave Norris said.
PG&E contends that a USA crew did mark the area and confirmed that
the line was live, according to Chord. PG&E is continuing to investigate the
Anyone with questions about any markings can call PG&E at (800) 743-5000 and crews will explain the marking or remark the area.
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