Monday gas leak caused by line severed as resident dug new basement

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Firefighters blocked off a section of North Fountain Street Monday after evacuating a two-block area while a gas leak was repaired. (Matt Sanders)

A severed gas line that forced evacuation Monday of two blocks of North Fountain Street was cut as Alfred Farrar and his brother were trying to gauge how deep to dig the basement for his new home.

Farrar successfully petitioned the Cape Girardeau City Council in April to allow him to replace a dilapidated home at 804 N. Fountain St. with a manufactured home. The old home is gone; Farrar and his brother were doing site work to prepare the property for the new home when they hit the gas


Reached at the construction site Tuesday, Farrar said he had used the Missouri One Call System to have the utility lines marked, but that rains or neighborhood children may have removed or altered the markers.

Farrar said his brother was operating a backhoe when the line was severed. A block of Fountain Street on either side of the home site at Pearl and Fountain streets were evacuated.

"We were trying to find the sewer line to find out how deep to go with the basement," Farrar said.

But John Lansford, executive director of Missouri One Call said a check of his records showed no request from Farrar to have the lines marked. He said, however, that he would have to do a more extensive search to be sure. Missouri law requires anyone excavating their property to call. Utility companies are notified to mark the locations of their buried lines.

Jean Mason, manager of AmerenUE's office in Cape Girardeau, said she also could find no records that the gas lines had been marked. If Farrar severed the line and did not call, she said, Ameren will seek to recover the costs of the crew that spent about two hours on the site repairing the line, she said.

"If a customer causes the damages, we go through our claims process," she said.

The severed line was a 2-inch diameter plastic pipe. While it served as a main line for the neighborhood, Mason said no service was lost when the pipe was ruptured.

There were no injuries due to the evacuation and everyone who was asked to leave did so quietly, said battalion chief Steve Niswonger of the Cape Girardeau Fire


No date has been set for delivery of the manufactured home for the site, Farrar said.


Pertinent address: 804 N. Fountain St.

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