A municipal mishap when the street was repaved complicated fixing the contractor's mishap

DAVID F. ASHTON - A NW Natural Gas worker begins jack-hammering up pavement at the intersection of S.E. 49th Avenue and Rhone Street, trying to locate the buried shut-off valve. When crews dig in the street, there's always a chance an excavator or shovel will rupture an underground natural gas line.

One did on Monday afternoon, November 19 – along S.E. 49th Avenue, between Powell Boulevard and Rhone Street, in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood.

In this case, construction workers were digging in the street in front of newly-built – but not yet occupied – homes, when the bucket of an excavator struck and ruptured a buried NW Natural gas line just before 3 p.m. that afternoon.

Natural gas whistled loudly from the broken line in the street; workers pulled back from the area, and Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters from Woodstock Station 25 arrived – ready to go into action should the escaping gas erupt into flames.

Complicating matters, NW Natural Gas employees discovered that the shut-off valve for that line had been paved over when the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services replaced a 97-year-old sewer pipe, which had collapsed in December of 2016, leaving a 16-foot deep sinkhole.

With the rat-tat-tat of a jackhammer, NW Natural began digging up the street to find the valve.

"The gas leak occurred when a contractor, establishing service to new homes in the area, removed an abandoned service 'T joint' from a one inch line in the street," explained NW Natural Gas spokesperson Stefanie Week.

"The gas was finally shut off by 4:30 p.m. that afternoon, and the full repair was made later that evening," Week told THE BEE. No one was injured in the incident.

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