Elkhorn residents forced to evacuate after contractor breaks gas line

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 5:33 PM CST
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ELKHORN, Neb. (WOWT) - A broken gas line Friday morning forced a number of Elkhorn residents to evacuate their homes.

People were evacuated for a few hours but who do they blame, the gas company or the contractor?

Chris Galvan was the one operating an excavator when he struck a buried gas line near N. 211th St. and West Maple Road on Friday.

“It took the whole front of the bucket of the big excavator in the air,” Galvan said.

He works for Swain Construction — the company has been replacing panels in Elkhorn as part of the city’s $200 million roads bond issue.

After hitting the line Friday, Galvan acted quickly.

“Shut it off and got out of there,” he said.

Omaha Fire crews were forced to shut down the area and evacuate people living nearby. Galvan said there was one extremely important safety measure missing.

“There was no markings whatsoever for the gas line,” he said. “Which has happened to me several times.”

The Metropolitan Utilities District is responsible for marking its gas, water, and sewer lines before construction begins. Omaha Public Power District marks electrical lines, and USIC handles the cable and fiber lines.

Gas lines are marked in yellow.

6 News reported seeing no yellow markings near Friday’s gas line break.

Galvan says construction crews are able to take cues from street markings.

“If it’s marked, we check to see how far down the gas is and proceed from there,” Galvan said.

But with panel replacement happening all over Elkhorn, Galvan says those markings need to be more thorough.

“I think MUD kind of needs to kind of go over things,” he said. “When they refresh, you know, a lot of these areas we do, they come in to do a refresh, well when there’s no markings you know you hit something like that.”

Fortunately, no injuries were reported from Friday’s gas line incident.

Galvan says that more care in utility markings would help keep things safer for everyone.

A MUD spokesperson says they cannot comment on this specific incident since the investigation is still ongoing. She says the utility owns the gas mains and that MUD’s underground utility locating standards are in accordance with the required expectations and compliance requirements with federal and state law.

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