Market Street gas leak

Vermont Gas and South Burlington Police and Firefighters gathered at the scene of a gas leak on Market Street last Thursday. 

J.A. McDonald, Inc. may face a fine following the second natural gas line incident in a month at the Market Street reconstruction project. 

J.A. McDonald Construction workers hit a 2-inch natural gas line with a backhoe last Thursday afternoon at the west end of Market Street near the Anchorage Inn and the Bueno y Sano restaurant. The incident severely backed up traffic along Dorset Street, stopping traffic all the way to Main Street in Burlington and Kennedy Drive in South Burlington.

“It’s a very tight site, and the backhoe just hooked the corner of [the line],” South Burlington Fire Chief Terry Francis said. “They’re quite powerful and it’s hard to know how hard you’re pulling until it’s too late.”

Nonetheless, Francis said the line was in a known location, and the incident follows one other within the past month. 

This is the fourth utility incident that J.A. McDonald Inc. has had since May – three of which were natural gas incidents.

“They’re [J.A. McDonald construction] not real happy right now,” Francis said. “We will have to decide if we’re going to levy a fairly significant fine against them because this is not the first one we’ve had.”

That fine could total several thousand dollars, he said.

The State Department of Public Service is investigating the matter i.e. whether to fine etc

Francis spoke with J.A. McDonald, Inc. President Eric Boyden and learned the company is taking steps to improve  underground training and site safety. One step includes having two foremen on scene to while digging. 

J.A. McDonald, Inc. personnel declined to comment on the incident. Messages left at J.A. McDonald, Inc. for comment were not returned by press time.

All of South Burlington’s on-duty police officers and on-duty firefighters responded to the incident, as well as Vermont Gas. Police redirected traffic while firefighters secured the scene. They evacuated five neighboring businesses and metered them, determining that they were safe, Francis said.

“PD did a really good job of getting people out of the Blue Mall, going in the right direction,” he said. “Traffic is backed up literally all the way to the station, we [the fire department] had to work our way through.”

Francis’ last piece of advice was to call 911 first in an emergency. Local firefighters can mitigate the impact of a gas leak by pushing the gas away from buildings within close lines, he said. 

“There was a little bit of a delay getting us notified,” he said. “If you have a gas leak you call 911 first, then the Vermont Gas Company.”

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