WorkSafeBC says the contractor who ruptured a natural gas line on Friday in Langford didn’t follow a provincial regulation on how utility lines should be unearthed.
People were evacuated from their homes and a day care in the area of Lomalinda Drive and Happy Valley Road Friday morning after a FortisBC gas line was hit during work linked to a townhome development.
A WorkSafeBC investigation found the contractor, Joseph Brown Contracting Ltd., had partially exposed the gas line using a vacuum system, but part of the unexposed line slanted upward several feet.
Without the expected buffer of earth, an excavator soon struck and broke the shallow line, prompting the second evacuation of the area in two months.
A WorkSafeBC officer has ordered Joseph Brown Contracting to fully expose any utility lines before using heavy machinery to dig in the vicinity of the lines.
“(The officer) issued an order that all utility lines need to be fully exposed before working or proceeding with powered equipment,” said Megan Johnston with WorkSafeBC. “No matter how it’s done, be it hand digging or (vacuuming) … lines need to be exposed. That is for all utilities.”
Johnston said WorkSafeBC hasn’t levied any fines on the contractor, but officials will be following up at the work site.
The same contractor was cited for a Aug. 4 line break in the exact same area, which expelled natural gas for 2.5 hours.
A WorkSafeBC report noted in that case, the rupture endangered workers after the lower window of the excavator was broken due to debris shot by the escaping gas.
Langford engineering manager John Manson noted in Friday’s case the contractor did almost everything correct in terms of using a device to trace the horizontal path of underground utility pipes.
Maps provided to contractors don’t show elevation changes, Manson noted. “The maps aren’t detailed enough,” he said. “They don’t show vertical, only horizontal.”
Langford evacuees were allowed back in their homes just before noon on Friday. The gas line ruptured just before 9 a.m.
It’s the third gas line break in the same area in two months. The first smaller break on Aug. 2 caused only the evacuation of the day care, and was done by a different contractor than the following two incidents.
Dennis Dyck, who was evacuated from his home Friday and on Aug. 4 after the six-inch gasmain was ruptured, said he is losing his patience.
“The first time it’s an accident. The second time it’s ‘what are they thinking?’ The third time you have to wonder what the hell is going on,” Dyck said while waiting to return to his home.
On Friday, natural gas wafted through the area for about two and a half hours before the line was shut down at 11:35 a.m. Similar to the Aug. 4 line break, FortisBC crews dug two holes on either side of the rupture to crimp off the line.
Tom Hayward and his family took shelter on a BC Transit bus brought in to house evacuees. It was his second evacuation, and he took it in stride.
“Guys are working and things happen. I’m not upset,” he said. “What can you do?”
FortisBC spokesperson Marcus Wong said the company stands by the accuracy of its gas line maps.
Contractors need to call “BC OneCall” service to obtain maps for any underground utility, he said, and any contractor should hand dig until they find the utility line.
Kim Coy, owner of Sunshine Early Childhood Centre on Lomalinda Drive, said her staff is getting good at evacuating the 40 tots and babies.
They carry or walk the kids to the South Vancouver Island Rangers property on Luxton Road, and then bus the kids to a facility in Colwood, where parents can pick up their kids.
“In three minutes we are down the Galloping Goose and out of the area, even before the fire department gets there,” Coy said. “The kids are calm, we walk the Goose all the time.
“The most stressful thing is having parents leave work early to pick up their kids. This is the third time due to gas leaks.”