Ruptured gas line repaired
Company officials said a ruptured natural gas pipeline south of Reno would be back in service by Tuesday evening, less than 12 hours after a Grady County employee cut the pipe by accident.
The six-inch pipe carrying high pressure natural gas for Southern Natural Gas shot dirt and rocks from its shallow resting place in a ditch on Hopkins Road, an unpaved road, around 8 a.m. Tuesday. Grady County employee Jerome Weaver was driving a motor grader with a special attachment to clean ditches and had lifted the ditching arm when he saw markers for a natural gas line. “He thought he was past it,” says Rusty Moye, county administrator for Grady County, but Moye says the warning posts were not where the gas line was buried.
When Weaver lowered the ditching arm back into the ditch, it hit the pipeline buried just 2-3 inches below the surface, says Moye. The sudden opening in the pipe, allowed the high pressure natural gas to spew straight up. Weaver was injured along the right side of his body with abrasion burns to his arm from the shooting dirt and rocks, and cuts to the side of his face and arm. He also endured bruising on his right hip, leg and knee after jumping from the grader. County employees working with other pieces of road equipment saw the accident and called for help. Weaver was transported to Grady General Hospital where he was treated for his wounds and allowed to go home.
Moye said high banks line the dirt road where the accident occurred and over the years, erosion has taken its toll, likely bringing the pipeline closer and closer to the surface. “The road has worn in that area,” Moye says.
The pipeline was installed in the early 1960s, according to Carol Parramore with Southern Natural Gas, a company owned by El Paso Corporation. When asked if the company planned to rebury the pipe deeper underground, Ms. Parramore said, “We are in the process of investigating and looking at our options.” She says Southern Natural Gas transports gas to municipalities in southwest Georgia in addition to direct sales customers.
The ruptured pipeline was part of a line that runs through northeast Grady County, to the southern part of the county and into Gadsden County, Fla., according to Jim Ellis, Grady County Emergency Management Agency director.
A repair technician for Southern Natural Gas was on the scene about an hour after the leak started, but mandatory evacuations were not necessary since the accident happened in a rural area. Volunteer firefighter Hansel Butler, who was incident commander, said he informed the nearest resident at home about the leak, but said evacuation was optional since his home was a safe distance away.
County employee Weaver will remain on medical leave until his doctor releases him to return to work. The motor grader will undergo minor repairs, according to Moye. The accident shattered two of the machine’s windows, and caused some damage to its radiator exterior and oil cooler.