Gas line strike in Vancouver forces evacuation of area

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by Richard Gilbert last update:Oct 9, 2014

An excavator involved in the construction of a highrise tower in downtown Vancouver severed a gas line, which resulted in the evacuation of surrounding buildings.
A gas line strike at the Telus Garden development in downtown Vancouver caused the evacuation of several buildings and the closure of nearby streets.
A gas line strike at the Telus Garden development in downtown Vancouver caused the evacuation of several buildings and the closure of nearby streets. - Photo: Bradley Fehr

“A contractor at a construction site was digging and came into contact with a two inch natural gas line that had been recently installed in the area,” said Fortis BC spokesperson Michael Allison.

“There was an eight inch main servicing customers in the area that was taken out of commission by Fortis and left there. It was replaced by a smaller two inch line, which was installed to make construction easier.

“The contractor came into contact with the eight inch line, as well as the two inch line.”

The incident occurred in a laneway between Seymour and Richards Street at the Telus Garden construction site on March 17 at about 11 a.m.

The excavator was digging up the decommissioned gas line, but hit the active gas line.

“First, we worked with the fire department to ensure safety,” said Allison.

“They shut off the gas line, which affected about 25 customers. They also evacuated some of the surrounding buildings.”

Vancouver fire department public relations officer Carol Messenger confirmed that the area was cordoned off.

The CBC reported that construction workers at Telus Garden had trouble breathing and had to run from the site to get away from the gas.

Police helped close several blocks near the construction site.

An area that covered one block south and three blocks north was closed to traffic for a couple of hours.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from residential and commercial buildings along Robson Street from Granville to Homer.

Fortis BC and firefighters conducted a sweep of some nearby buildings to make sure that no gas had been trapped or captured.

Some buildings needed to be ventilated by the fire department.

“Our technicians have instruments to read natural gas in the air, so they worked with the fire department to make that determination,” said Allison.

“The repairs were completed before 3 p.m.

“When we got the gas under control, service to the 25 customers was restored. We went to each customer and relit their appliances.”

Provincial regulations require excavators to identify and expose underground utilities before they dig.

This means the contractor has a legal obligation to use existing plans or drawings to physically identify where the utilities are.

The only way to do this is to expose the utility by hand and determine the direction it is going.

To fulfill this obligation a contractors should phone B.C. One Call, which is the province-wide utility locate company.

Allison said the new and old gas lines are identified on maps that can be obtained from B.C. One Call, but he didn’t know if the contractor used the service.

The $750 million Telus Garden project involves the construction of a residential, retail and commercial real estate redevelopment project, which includes the company’s national executive offices.

The one million square foot development project features a 24-storey LEED Platinum office tower, which will be the first of its kind in Canada.

In addition, the project includes a 53-storey LEED Gold residential tower with more than 425 residential units, as well as retail space along Robson and Georgia streets.

The construction manager for the project is Westbank Projects Corporation.

Telus Garden is expected to create more than 500 construction jobs during construction.

The office tower is scheduled for occupancy in June of 2014, while the residential tower is expected to be ready in May 2015.

After completion, Telus Garden will use at least 30 per cent less energy than a standard development of the same size.

The project is designed to transfer excess heat from one building to another as needed, use solar panels to power some infrastructure, and capture rainwater for toilets and garden irrigation.>

last update:Oct 9, 2014

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