BANGOR, Maine — Subcontractors for Bangor Gas Co. installing a 6-inch gas line next to Union Street hit a propane line near Godfrey Boulevard on Tuesday morning that prompted city fire and police officials to temporarily block off the two streets.
“They stuck a 2-inch low pressure gas line,” Assistant Fire Chief Rick Cheverie said. “It supplies the McDonald’s that is right there and the entire Airport Mall.”
The 2-inch propane gas line connects the restaurant and mall to a 30,000-gallon propane tank across Union Street.
While searching for the shut-off valve, “they were scrambling around,” Cheverie said. “It was putting [out] a lot of gas.”
Propane is a heavy gas, which “settled and filled the trench” near the heavily traveled road, causing the alarm, he said.
“We had a fairly good wind that was blowing. It gave us a little bit of assistance there to dissipate the gas,” Cheverie said. “We were lucky in that way.”
He added that he and his firefighters were “all taken aback” when they learned the propane gas line went under the four-lane road.
To ensure there were no ignition sources near the escaping gas, a stretch of Union Street from Burger King to the Griffin Road and Godfrey Boulevard between Union Street and Maine Avenue was closed from about 10:30 a.m. to shortly after noon, Bostock said.
Neighborhood traffic briefly was rerouted through the Airport Mall to Griffin Road and then to Maine Avenue or Ohio Street.
Crews from Bangor Gas and the Fire Department could be seen walking around the scene around 11 a.m. with multigas meters, and “we still had people walking through the area” apparently unaware of the danger, Cheverie said.
McDonald’s wasn’t able to use its fryers for a short time but continued to operate, Chelsea Hinton, a second assistant manager, said Tuesday afternoon.
“We never actually really closed,” she said. “We just didn’t have french fries. We still had burgers and everything else.”
Two temporary propane tanks were quickly installed at the backside of the fast food restaurant, she said.
Jerry Livengood, Bangor Gas general manager, said the propane line was hit by a subcontractor hired to install a 6-inch natural gas main between Griffin Road and Vermont Street.
“We call it a hit, a third party hit,” he said.
Bangor Gas is the only supplier of natural gas in eastern and northern Maine.
Livengood said hits to underground utilities are commonplace with projects that require digging.
“It happens every day,” he said. “We’re working on a pipeline. With any type of excavation project [gas, sewer or others] … it happens very frequently.”
The identity of the subcontractor was not immediately clear.
When digging around any possible underground utilities, contractors and homeowners must contact Dig Safe System Inc., a communication network used to ensure underground lines are identified, and avoided. “Dig Safe is to investigate,” Livengood said.
Tuesday’s gas release will be reported, a requirement under state law, to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which will determine where the fault lies, and whether there will be any penalties.