A Major ‘Pixie’ Failure
CBS carried the story as: Utility worker pierced pipe before Massachusetts gas blast. It is only after you get into it that you discover that the painted lines and little flags were in the wrong place, which is why the pipe was pierce by the worker using a probe to check for a possible gas leak.
Fortunately people were immediately evacuated from the buildings in the area, so there were no fatalities, but the first responders at the scene who had stayed after completing the evacuation and the utility crews called in to repair the pipe were injured when the gas exploded.
Natural gas companies have been converting to plastic pipe which has important advantages over the steel and iron pipe that was used for years. One of the major drawbacks of plastic pipe is trying to locate it underground. The local gas company buries a wire with the pipe, and locates it by searching for a signal sent through the wire. It works well if the wire isn’t displaced from the pipe when they fill in the ditch. That happened in the yard of the first placed I lived when I moved back. Things got pretty exciting when my landlord put in an irrigation system and they discovered that the gas line was two feet away from the painted line. The wire was definitely under those lines – the gas company found it when they put in the new line.