Apparently, too many times, underground utlitiies are not where they are supposed to be...

DAVID F. ASHTON - S.E. Foster Road was closed to traffic for hours for the repair, when a horizontal directional drilling rig bit chewed through a buried plastic natural gas service line. It's starting to become an all-too-familiar story. This time, it was on S.E. Foster Road that traffic came to a standstill, in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood on October 23 at 1:44 p.m., when workers operating a horizontal drilling rig punctured a natural gas line.

Police closed Foster from Holgate Boulevard southeast to 65th Avenue, keeping traffic and pedestrians from interfering with Woodstock's Fire Station 25 Engine company, standing by with water lines charged (pressurized), should the natural gas, seeping out of the hole, ignite.

Workers inside CT Renovation Supply, at 6308 S.E. Foster Road, were escorted from their building as the rotten-egg scent of "Mercaptan", the odorant added to natural gas, filled the air next to the Vermeer horizontal directional drill, abandoned on the sidewalk.

NW Natural Gas crews conferred the contractor on the project and the first responders from PF&R, before beginning the process to shut off the flow of gas.

"A horizontal drilling rig appeared to have been in use; the damage was caused by a contractor using a directional drill," confirmed NW Natural Public Information Officer Daphne Mathew to THE BEE.

Asked what had been ruptured, Mathew responded, "It was a small half-inch polyethylene service line serving one business; approximately 10 nearby businesses were evacuated," adding that whether or not the line had been properly located, and marked as required, was still under investigation.

The situation was resolved in time to reopen S.E. Foster Road in time for the afternoon commute.

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